From Starrider15 and a list that's not Imaginings:

Horatio/Xander or Gibbs/Xander

In a world where Guides a rare and highly prized Gibbs or Horatio are Sentinels without a guide and are being aided with their senses by Jim and Blair.  Xander has left Sunnydale and hiding from his abusive friends when he is kidnapped and buried alive during his rescue it's discovered he is a Guide.  While recovering and learning to trust his new Sentinel his ex-friends show up and get thrashed by the Team.  Bonus if Buffy and Willow get spanked.

Well, I'll take part of it....


A Child to Guide Them

Blair came running to the hospital at Jim's page.  "What's wrong?" he asked when he finally found him.

"That parking garage collapse.  We just pulled another one out."  He glanced around before looking at him again.  "His voice drew me over the screaming of the kids," he said quietly. "That's who I've been hearing babbling for the last day."


"Really."  He gave him a look.  "I think we need to talk to him."

"I can do that."  He smiled at the nurse he knew.  "Which room?"

"Depends, which kid?" she countered.

"The one I've been hovering over," Jim admitted, heading that way.  He knocked before leaning in.  "Up for visitors?"

"Time for my statement?"

"No, we know what caused the garage to collapse," Jim offered as he walked in.  "I'm Detective Ellison, this is Professor Sandburg."  The kid on the bed waved, looking very confused.  "We're here about a different matter."

"Okay," he said slowly.  "I'm on my second road trip, guys.  What's wrong?  Did I break a law by pausing so I could have some fast food goodness at the mall while using a cleanish bathroom to clean up?"

"No," Jim said, coming closer.

"Let me," Blair said, coming over to sit on the foot of his bed.  "Jim thinks that you might be up my alley of study.   See, I'm an Anthropologist and I study Sentinels, protectors of tribes."

Xander nodded slowly.  "I worked in Sunnydale."

Blair frowned.  "You're kidding."

"Nope.  Worked with the Watcher's Council dude there too and his girl, even," Xander said dryly.  He stared him down.  "Sentinels?"

"Enhanced senses, normal humans, protect the tribe," Blair told him.

"So like protectey vamps but human?"

"Basically," Blair agreed, nodding.  "Jim, he's from somewhere that strange things happen."

"So sentinels are a minor thing?"  Xander moved his gown's arm to show his.  "Is that a bite mark?"  He looked at it.  "It's only canines."

"No, it was fangs," Xander told him.  "Cranky female vamp."  He looked at Blair again.  "How can I help you?  Did you need a research buddy?  Because I've been doing that for years."

"No, Jim thinks you've got Guide material."

Xander giggled.  "I'm lucky if I've got living material."

"You've survived and hunted for how long?" Blair shot back.  Xander shrugged.  "Can we at least test it?"

"As long as you get me out of this hellhole hospital.  I can't stand these places."

"We can arrange that," Blair agreed.  "Do you know where you're staying yet?"


"I've got a couch as long as you don't make a big mess," Jim said grudgingly.

Xander looked at him.  "How much of my stuff were you able to pull out of my car?" he asked.

"Point.  We got your car out."

"Good.  Watch out for the trunk."

"I already told them that when I smelled the gunpowder," Jim admitted.  "Let me get the nurse."  He went to find her, finding her with forms.  "You knew?"

"After ten years working on this ward you know the ones who don't want to be here, Detective Ellison.  You can also tell him that the Red Cross wanted to make sure he had everything he needed."

"I'll get him with Millie later."  He walked the forms in, letting Blair help the kid change since his wrist was casted and his head was still throbbing probably.  Jim walked the forms back out and took the wheelchair, moving the kid out of the noisy, cramped hospital to the quietness of the parking lot.  "The Red Cross wanted you to check in about your losses, kid.  They can help you get your insurance people and all that."

"I'm hoping my insurance guy hasn't been eaten yet," Xander told him.  "All that stuff was in the glove box."

"Which is still intact," Blair assured him.  "I saw the wreckage earlier."  He patted him on the back, going to get his car.  "You can ride with me so we can talk about Guide stuff and the tests."

"Sure," he agreed, shrugging some.  He looked at Jim.  "Can they call the people I know at home so they can laugh at her instead?"

"Yeah they're good at that and Millie's excellent at making them sorry for it," Jim admitted.  "That bad?"

"Kinda yeah."  Blair drove back and Xander got into the car.  "See you in a few, Detective."

"Sure, kid."  He watched them drive off, heading for his own truck.  He needed to check in at the office and to call his contact at the Red Cross so they could come to the kid instead of making him go down there.  Plus his boss would need to know that Blair had found another Guide.  They had been working on and off with two other sentinels that Blair had found in law enforcement over the years.  Maybe the kid would go well with one of them.  Hopefully.  He hated sharing his guide.


Xander looked at the two guys Blair had called after he had gotten done with his testing and it had come up with the bunny plus sign, as he put it, much to Blair's amusement.  They were both older.  They both looked uncomfortable.  They both looked a bit growly and mean.  He looked at Jim, who shrugged.  "Are they normally that quiet?  I like noise."

"I think they're studying you," Jim told him.

"Oh.  Okay."  He shrugged, then winced, rubbing his shoulder.  "Word of advice.  Try not to have a parking garage fall on your car and smoosh your roof down into you."  They both nodded at that.  "Okay, guys, loosen up.  I'm not that special.  Really.  Even if Blair did say that guides were more rare than vampires' steak dinners I'm not that special."  One cracked a smile at that.  "Before you ask, yes I am from somewhere there are real vampires.  Yes, I have staked a few.  I'm from Sunnydale.  It was me or them and I don't like being nibbled on that way."  That got a smirk from the other.  "Sorry, laying it on the line."  He stood up.  "I'll let you guys study me from afar so you can pump Jim for information."  He went out onto Jim's balcony with Blair, looking at him.  "They're kinda uptight."

"It's the job, Xander."  He patted him on the back.  "I heard from Millie."

"How long did they laugh for?"

"About ten minutes but she made them very uncomfortable for it.  She also found out your insurance agent had been eaten but someone else took his place.  They're processing your claim now from the office up here.  She also gave me the number of the guy suing the construction company that broke the parking garage while trying to fix the building next to it. She said most of the others were going to sue."  Xander nodded, taking that to put into his pocket. "Also, she said that you have a sister?"

"I do?"

"She said you do."

"Buffy has a sister."

"Maybe that's who she was talking about.  Dawn?"

"Buffy's sister.  They just lost their mother."  He leaned on the porch railing.  "I have no idea why that got brought up."

"She's apparently tried to follow you."

"So she ran away?"


"Great."  He took a deep breath.  "I suppose I can find a decent job wherever and support her.  I'll be out of my cast soon and I do have construction experience."  Blair smiled at him.  "I do."  He shrugged.  "She can come stay with me as long as Buffy doesn't throw a hissy.  She likes me more than either of them do this week anyway."

"Millie found her in town.  She'll bring her over later."

"Then I'll definitely need a motel room," Xander agreed.  "Was my cash found?"

"Yup.  Jim's got all your stuff waiting on you.  He even had help covering up the fact that you had weapons in the car."

"Sorry but kinda my life.  Ya know?"

"We told the guy who covered it up that.  He looked up your town and said it was probably better that he not know."  He patted him again.  "We should go back inside.  Jim's giving us odd looks."

"Jim gives me a lot of odd looks."

"I'm the only guide he's ever known."

Xander looked at him.  "I like you and all but I can't be you."

"I don't expect you to be me, Xander.  I expect you to be you and to help one of those two if you can."

"Do they live close by?"

"Nope.  One's in DC, the other's in Miami."

"Miami has a lot of construction jobs," he said thoughtfully.

"Yes they do," Blair agreed.  "Plus a very high cost of living but we can worry about that later."  He walked him back inside.  "I told him about his stuff, Jim."

"It's in the truck, kid.  We had to do a lot of hiding with your weapons."

"Not like it was nuclear or anything."

"You still had a bar of semtex, timers, det cord, and six handguns, plus a crossbow, bullets, and arrows for the crossbow."

"And a vampire in a pear tree.  I wasn't going to leave them at home for the selfish wenches to play with.  They might hurt themselves. They're having a shallow week again."

"It happens now and then," the older of the two sentinels offered.  "Where are you from?"


The younger, redheaded one moaned.  "I've heard of your town, Mr. Harris."

Xander grinned.  "Figured out who I was from that?"

"He said your name was Xander.  That's the only one I've ever heard of from out there."

"I'm the only Alexander in town too," he quipped, grinning at him.  "I'm on a road trip.  Oh, you should know apparently I've inherited Buffy's little sister Dawn.  She'll be around later and I'll find a motel, Jim.  She's deep in grief because she just lost her mom."  Jim nodded at that.  "So, what do you two do?  I'm guessing some sort of law enforcement with the way you both stiffened at the mention of explosives."

"I work at NCIS," the older one said.  "I'm a team leader."

Xander frowned.  "Is that like CID?"

"For the Navy and Marines," he agreed.  "You know the Army Criminal Investigative Service?"

"They've kinda been all over our town recently thanks to a freak project they came out to do on our resident shadow population.  We were not fond of them so we kinda drove them off."  They both looked stunned and Jim snickered.  "We did," he said, pouting at him.  "I helped."

"I know you did.  I got a report on that when I asked my intelligence buddies to do a background check on you, Xander."   He grinned at Blair, who was snickering.  "Buffy's sister?"

"Dawn, yeah.  They're having a shallow week."

"That's fine.  Is she here?"

"Millie said she'd drive her over after dinner."  He looked at his other students.  "Relax, guys.  Xander has fought to save the world a number of times."

"Is he going military?" the older guy asked.

"I don't think they'd accept me. I have some funny ideas about how to protect others," Xander said quietly.

"Then getting him near me could be a problem," Gibbs admitted.  "Unless he's got other skills?"

"He could work at your coffee shop, Jethro," the other one teased.

"You'll have the same problems, Horatio."

"Actually, I was working construction, guys.  That covers up a whole lot of knowledge that I have."

They both nodded at that.

"Neither of you need someone on a daily basis," Blair pointed out.  "Just for hard cases.  You could probably even train Xander in how to deal with what you guys do on a daily basis if you had to."

"That would take a degree," Horatio reminded him.  Xander shuddered.  "Don't like school?"

"Not my bestest buddy, no.  Could have something to do with going to high school over a portal to hell, but mostly it just sucked."  He looked at Blair.  "What about a private bodyguard thing?"

"They're both in law enforcement.  They'd expect to use someone else for that if they needed it," Jim pointed out from his seat.

Xander shrugged. "I tried.  It made sense to me."

"Who do you work with now?" Jethro asked.

"Buffy.  Willow.  Giles.  Tara."

"Three girls and...."

"A British Librarian," Xander supplied.  "Selfish girls who decided to be more special than everyone else again this month. Tara's nice but Willow's warping her.  Willow and I have been friends since the first day of school.  Buffy came to town in my tenth grade year and I've been fighting with her since about the day she started school."  They both frowned at that.  "Sorry, that's my background.  That and a lot of crappy fast food jobs."

"A librarian?"

"Watcher," Blair told him.  "Librarian was his cover.  He was there to train Buffy.  I've got a book around here somewhere."

"No thanks.  I'll take the short version," Jethro said, making Xander snicker.  "I don't like long briefings.  I'm an action oriented person."

"Now and then that's the best, but sometimes watching is a lot of fun."

"It can be," Horatio agreed.  "No girlfriend?"  Xander shuddered.  "I'll take that as a no."

"I was dating a yong woman named Anyanka.  She was a vengeance demon over women scorned.  She got to torture a lot of unfaithful guys."  They both shuddered at that and so did Blair.  Xander looked at him.  "Ran into her?"

"No.  Not personally.  Stories of her."

"I heard plenty of those."  Xander looked at the guys again.  "I'm leaving this up to you guys.  Not like I've got tons to deal with at home right now, except for Dawn, and she'll move too."  He looked at Blair.  "I would've thought that the law of reality would've drawn guides to them."

"In some ways it does but not always the guide you need.  Jethro works with someone who'd make a fantastic guide, but not for him."

"I have to trust him in other ways, I can't do that and do the job and be his boss," Jethro reminded him.

"I have a few who might turn out if properly coached," Horatio admitted.

"Can you two switch?"

"No," they said together.

"We need our people where they are.  We count on them being there," Horatio expanded at Xander's frown.  "The same as we can't really be seen to be *guided* around since we both run our teams.  Especially not by our junior officers."

"So you can't be seen to be touchy feely like Blair and Jim are and they can't seem to be doing more than offering suggestions?"  Horatio nodded and Jethro grunted.  "Okay.  That blows my ideas."

Blair patted him on the head.  "I had that same one, Xander.  It's a natural first thought."

"It's also tactically sound on their end," he admitted.  "Especially in positions of power."  He frowned, looking at them.  "Like I said, I'm not adverse to moving.  I don't mind being a Guide.  Blair gave me the full lecture, even if he did repeat some of it after a short nap I had to take."

"You had a parking garage fall on you.  Of course you needed a nap," Jim offered, grinning at him.  He did the same thing when Blair lectured him now and then.  That particular lecture was a dry and more boring one.

"For now, let's deal with the practical things.  You've got to see if you can stand me," Xander pointed out.  "Then we'll work on cover stories and all that later."  They both nodded, letting Blair into the kitchen.  "Can I help, Blair?  I've done a lot of fast food cooking."

"No, I'm good.   This is one of my sacred spots.  Sit and talk to Horatio and Jethro, Xander.  Let them get to know the real you."

Xander gave him a look.  "As close as anyone ever does," he agreed finally, looking at them.  "Sorry, grew up around selfish people."

"We all have defense mechanisms," Horatio agreed, sitting down across from him.  "What else do you do?"

"Work, slay, former girlfriend, repeat.  That's about all I have time for anymore.  Even on my days off it's not a day off, it's fixing Buffy's weapons and things."  They both nodded, Jethro sitting down.  He looked at him.  Then at Horatio.  "So, you guys are like the shows on the discovery channel Willow likes to make us all watch?"  They both nodded.  "Okay.  So I'm guessing you're both detail oriented people."

"I'm very much one to speak for the victims," Horatio offered.

"Good, someone should if guys like me don't get there first and someone ends up being one," Xander agreed.  Jethro gave him another stare.  "I've been stared at by little kids when I did a six-week stint at a daycare, Jethro.  You can't be worse than the little one who wanted my twinkies."

Horatio burst out laughing.  "There's agents all over DC who're scared of him."

"They're secretaries, right?  Not the real agents?"

"No, they're mostly the FBI," Jethro admitted.

"Which is why I get idiots sent down to me when they come," Horatio said, looking at him. "Can't you warn them off me too?  I had the biggest idiot the other day.  He tried to tell me I couldn't get a fingerprint off a gun grip, a smooth gun grip."

"Scowl and shoot back facts, that's how I do it," Jethro offered.

"I laugh and then walk away," Xander told them.  "Sometimes run away and a few times even hid, but mostly walk away anymore.  I've been figuring out I'm about out of fears at the moment.  I need new ones."

"Go bungi jumping," Jethro told him.

"Did that accidentally on purpose.  The former ho drug me with her."  He grimaced.  "Was not that impressed."  He heard footsteps and glared at the door.  "Jim, do you have noisy neighbors?"

"No, that's someone wearing something fruity and Millie."  He got up to answer the door, looking at the girl.  "Hi."

"Xander?"  He waved a hand, letting her run over to hug him.  "I missed you.  Take me?"

"Will Buffy complain?"

"She told me I'm not human."

"Then we'll do what we can.  I'm sure someone can get custody switched over so I don't have a police problem."  He settled her in next to his good side.  "Dawn, these are Horatio and Jethro.  I'm going to be moving near one of them to help them with stuff."

"Hi."  She waved weakly.  "What do you two do that you need a Xander?  Evil women?"  Xander gave her a look. "I'm not the one who took up with Anya."

"It was easy sex.  Get over it."  He rolled his eyes.  "They're both in the forensic stuff that Willow makes us all watch."

"Wow.  Then you're uber-smart.  Why do you need a Xander?"

"He's got some special skills," Horatio told her.

"I know that, dude.  I've seen him use them all over Sunnydale."  She shrugged.  "Other than that?"

"That's not a divulgeable secret, Dawnie," Xander told him.  She sighed and smacked him on the arm.  "Hey!  I had a parking garage try to smash me in my car, be more gentle or I'm making you move in with Angel."

"She'd love that," she said bitterly.  She snuggled in again.  "So, you guys live where?"

"I live in DC," Jethro said, shaking himself clear.  "Horatio lives in Miami."

"Lots and lots of construction guy stuff down there," she said, looking at Xander.  Who nodded.  "What about DC?"

"There's almost always construction stuff, Dawn.  It's one of those needed skills.  Or I could do something else."

"I guess."  She looked at Jethro again.  "You stare a lot.  Am I that fascinating?"  She didn't get an answer.  "Um, is he a scary stalker sort?" she asked Horatio, who shook his head.

"Jethro," Blair called.

Dawn looked at him then reached over and tweaked his nose.  "I'm too young for you," she said when he blinked at her.  "No more staring at my abs of doom."  She leaned back again.

Blair looked at Jethro, who gave him a hopeless look.  "Dawn, come in the kitchen for a minute please?"  She sighed but got up and walked in there.

"Mr. Harris?" Millie asked.  "Can I get you to sign some stuff?  Please?"

"Sure, I can do that.  We'll use the balcony?"  She nodded, letting him lead her out there.  "What's up?"

"Who are they?"

"A police officer and a fed.  Friends of Blair."

"That explains the strange reaction then.  He was probably trying to see her aura or something.  I have a faxed release of custody from her sister to you."  She handed it over.  "I asked if she would agree when we told her we had found her sister.  She denied having one."  Xander grimaced.  "What is wrong with that family?  Is Dawn a behavior case?"

"No, their parent just died and Buffy's claiming that Dawn isn't really her sister.  That she was implanted into the family by someone to rip them apart since they got a divorce shortly after she was born."  He signed the form after reading it.  "Anything else?"

"A few things."  She handed over some other forms.  "The construction company would like to settle this quickly.  Half of them have taken this offer.  If we can get the majority they'll use this one."

Xander looked at it then at her.  "No way in hell.  My car is worth more than that.  Tell them I'm the original vindictive person over destroying what's mine and I worked construction.  Fat chance."  She smiled and tore that one up.   "I think you got another one too."  He looked at that one, nodding and signing once he had both halves.  "I will eliminate the mall since it wasn't their problem originally.  Was it a wrecking ball?"  She nodded.  "Damn.  Heavy hand on it."

"Very."  She took that one back.  "I can tape it together."  She glanced inside then at him.  "Are you sure you can handle her?"

"She's a good girl.  Very much her mother's daughter.  It's just that Buffy and our other best friend have special girl issues."

"Ah.  So Buffy's the behavior case."

"Yeah, big time."  He looked at the last form, frowning at it.  "We are eligible for a motel?"

"You are since you were traveling.  The Red Cross can put you up there for the next week."

"That should be plenty of time.  Tell them thank you."

"I can do that and have you checked in.  A double room?"

"Please.  What did she manage to sneak out?"

"About three bags of stuff.  Her sister said you were more than welcome to come get the rest for her."

"We can do that on our way to Miami," he agreed, smiling at her.  He had seen Dawn and Jethro staring off, Dawn tapping a foot.  "That is so her mother's mannerism," he said quietly, making her laugh.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Have Blair call me if you need more help."

"I can do that and thank the people at the Red Cross for me too."  She nodded, leaving with the paperwork.  He walked in, looking at Blair once she was gone.  "So, she's a guide too?"

Horatio snickered, nodding.  "Very."  He got up to help Millie carry in the bags.  "Is this all she had?"

"Buffy said we could go steal the rest as long as she didn't have to see me ever again," Dawn told him, shrugging a bit.  "I'm all for beating the snot out of my big sister and then taking all the clothes she stole from me trying to be my size again."

Xander held up a hand, shaking his head.  "Not an issue."  He called down to Sunnydale using his phone card.  "Tara, baby, it's Xander."  He smiled.  "Dawn is here.  Buffy's decided she's not related so we need the rest of Dawn's stuff packed for her.  Please.  I'll give you an address in a few weeks to send it to?  Thanks, Tara.  I don't care if you do it that way or not.  Or even if Willow helps or distracts.  Oh, she said Buffy stole some of her clothes again trying to recapture her own teenage years."  He looked at Blair.  "No, I got a summons from a higher power, Tara.  I'm needed on the east coast.  No, not like Angel, not quite anyway.  Sure.  You are more than welcome to move with us, dear.  You know that.  Sure, I'll write you a long email as long as you don't share it.  Because I don't want to hear the laughter or the rants.  Tara, they laughed when a parking garage trapped me in my car for over a day.  I'm not feeling that charitable toward either of them and if I came back they'd have issues with me.  Please?"  He smiled.  "Sure, the rest of my stuff too if you can keep Anya out of it.  Thanks.  Love you and I'll miss you so you'd better come visit.  Sure, soon."  He hung up.  "She'll pack both of our stuff and put into storage.  Then she'll have it sent."

"That'll work," Dawn agreed.  She looked at Jethro again.  "If it makes it easier you can say I'm your guardee and you got me from my mom's will," she offered.  "That would let me be there when you needed me and all that stuff."

"It would," he agreed.  "It might even explain why I call you while I'm on scenes."

"True it could," Horatio agreed, smiling at Xander.  "So you're coming to Miami?"

"More work down there," he agreed happily.  "Once I get my cast off."  He looked at the two senior people.  "We good with that plan?"

"It works for me," Blair agreed. "Will her sister mind?"

"She can live with Jethro until I get settled is a good story."

"That'll work too," Jethro agreed.  Dawn shrugged.  "What about school?"

"Somewhere not too hideous, preppy, and where I can be fashionable and cute?" Dawn offered.

"We'll figure that out too," Jethro said dryly.  "I am an agent and a former Marine."

"Yay you, my sister's a slayer and we had our own special sort of boot camp in Sunnydale.  Xander taught me self-defense against boys."

"And vampires," Xander agreed.

"And vampires," Dawn agreed.  "Plus Spike."

"He is technically still a vampire, even if he can't nibble," Xander said patiently.

"Point.  What about Giles?" she asked him.

He shrugged.  "What about him?  Not like he's paying attention to either of us."

"Good point."  She nodded. "Maybe I can get a going away fund from him."

"Could try.  I know I could use one," Xander admitted.  Willow appeared, dropping a few boxes she had been floating.  "I said Tara could store them until we moved," he complained.

"Buffy's ready to torch stuff.  Dawnie, we packed you all your stuff from your room, but the furniture stuff, and a few good pictures of your mom, plus all the DVD collection and all the games to make her miserable."

"Okay.  That'll work.  Until Xander gets settled I'm staying with Jethro here," she said, nodding at him.  "He's a Marine and a Fed."

"Like Initiative?"

"Like CID only for the Navy and Marines, Willow," Xander offered.

"Oh, then that's fine then.  We won't mind.  We like them."  She smiled at her.  "There's two more boxes."

"We can store them under the stairs for right now," Jim offered.  Willow beamed and floated them that way, then got the other two, putting them there too.  "Thank you, miss."

"I'm not like that, I'm Willow."  She shook his hand.  "How did you meet Xander?"

"We helped when he got called to a different service."

"That's cool."  She smiled at Blair.  "Hi."

"Hi.  Want dinner?"

"No, I should get back to my Tara snuggly."  She hugged them both, then smacked Xander on the arm.  "Anya said to give you that."

"I've already got a broken wrist and we're broken up.  She can find someone else to suck dry.  What about my stuff?"

"We've got it in storage and she doesn't know where.  Though your savings account is gone."

"I know," he said dryly.  "Any other good news?"

"She didn't sell anything this time."  She shrugged.  "When you get settled, let us know."  She waved and disappeared again.

Xander rubbed the sore spot.  "Hey, Blair, can I borrow some more of that liniment?"

"Bathroom, Xander."  He nodded his thanks, going that way to put some on the new sore spot.

Dawn looked at Horatio.  "She used to be his best friend."  Horatio nodded, going to see if he could help Xander.  She looked at Jethro.  "So, anything I should be aware of?"

"I drink a lot of coffee for a good reason.  People are scared if I don't have coffee in my hand."

"Okay.  I can learn how to make coffee.  Xander probably makes some decent stuff after all the fast food he worked.  Anything else?"

"I work as part of a team.  You'll get to meet them when we get back to DC."

"Sure.  That's cool.  How anal are you going to be about dating?"  He gave her an odd look.  "Some year I might want to date, Jethro.  As pointed out, I doubt we'd be a cool couple.  I'm hip and you growl."  He smiled and nodded at that.  "So?"

"I'll meet them all, threaten them, and then bury them if they try anything I don't like.  I have a yard as well as some woods for their mangled remains."

"Okay.  That'll work too.  Better than Buffy's strict regulation on the fact that I can't have sex until I'm well past Anya's real age of eleven-hundred and some."

Horatio walked Xander back out.  "She bruised him."

"She does that," Dawn told him.  "You had better protect the Xander.  I am the mean one of that whole group and I learned from all the other scary women in Sunnydale."

"When did you meet Dru?" Xander asked.

"Heard a lot about her," Dawn assured him.  "Remember, Spike was my sitter now and then."

"Not my idea," he told her.  "Really."

"I know but it's fun.  He lets me do neat stuff."

"He's trying to get you in trouble," he countered.  "He let you shoplift.  He taught you how."

"Point.  I was trying to get attention."

"And if you ever do it again I'm going to kick your ass.  Clear?"

"Clear," she agreed.  She walked over to give him a hug.  "I'm sorry Willow was such a booger head to you.  Again."  She grinned. "I'll be very good in DC with Jethro."

"Good.  That's what I want to hear because he will tell me and I will spank," Xander reminded her.  "You will grow up in a manner that makes your mother proud wherever she is.  Because if you turn into Buffy or Anya, I'll tan your ass into a new personality."

"Yes, Xander.  I'll be a good Dawnie."   He smiled and gave her another hug.  "Okay."  She broke free.  "You're wrinkling me."  She walked over to grab Jethro.  "Don't worry, I was seeking attention from the uber-ho sister.  It's not who I usually am."

"Good.  Because he'll get you after I do, Dawn."  He stared her down.

She pinched him on the cheek with a smile.  "Aren't you cute when you scowl?"  She walked into the kitchen.  "Can I help, Blair?  After all, I am learning how to cook, or I was from Mom."

He gave her a hug.  "It'll get a bit easier, Dawn."  She nodded, sniffling against his shoulder.  "I promise, it'll get easier."

"I've lost lots of others," she said, looking at him.  "It was a bigger blow to lose Mom."

"We're like a family here.  You and Xander are both part of us now."

"Does that mean I should call you Stepmom?"

Jim burst out laughing, walking out onto the balcony with Horatio right behind him so they could laugh in private.

"Auntie?" Dawn suggested, cracking a smile.

"Blair.  Blair is good.  I'm too hairy and too secure in my gender identity to be an Auntie."  He gave her another squeeze.  "Get the plates out of the cabinet behind me and set the table with plates, glasses, and forks.  No need for other stuff."  She nodded, moving to find things and do that.  "Go get the two chuckling ones and make them clean up."  Xander went to do that.  He smiled at Jethro.  "Well, you're used to Tony."

"I am," he agreed. "I'm used to Abby too and she's like a cross between them."  He patted Dawn on the back, moving to help her set the table.  "I've got to email them tonight."

"Millie found us a motel room for the week," Xander told him.  "A double of course."  Dawn nodded that she was fine with that.  "Just don't take all night in the bathroom, okay?"

"I won't."  She gave him a kiss on the cheek.  "You're going to be good in Miami?"

"I'm going to be very good in Miami.  I might even find a nice girl to date."

She gave him an odd look.  "Uh-huh.  And there's going to be another apocalypse when?"  She went to fuss some things back into place that Jethro had moved, giving him a hip nudge out of her way.  "No one needs placemats that straight, Jethro.  If you need a ruler you need therapy.  That's why it's called casual dining."

Blair laughed, nodding.  "She's right.  This is not a formal meal by any standard."

"Feel lucky.  The last formal meal we had was at some embassy event he got invited to.  It had fried grub worms in honey," Jim complained.

"I've had that dish," Jethro admitted.  "Needed cayenne."

"Eww," Dawn told him.  "Really eww.  I eat normal human, teenage girl food."

"I was on assignment, Dawn.  It was a delicacy."

"It can stay there too."  She went to help Blair bring food out.  "Is that chicken or turkey?"

"Chicken.  Why?"

"Wondering, just in case."  She put things down and went to get the drinks.  "Soda, milk, or water, guys?"

"Milk's soy," Jim warned.

"Okay, soda, water, or fake milk that makes some people I know itch?"

"Water please, Dawn," Horatio requested.  He sat next to Xander, who let Dawn sit next to him, and Jethro across from her.  Jim and Blair got the ends of the oval table.  "Jethro, want her over there?"

"No, it's better right now for her to get her Xander-time in."  He dished up food and handed it over.  "So, Dawn, that floating thing?"

"I can but I don't do a lot of it and I'm still learning.  I will not follow in the bad footsteps and do bad things with it."

"Good," Xander agreed.  Jethro nodded, eating his first bite.  "She's not going to use it all the time, Jethro.  She's not like that, like Willow can be.  Willow changes her clothes with it."

"I want to see what I look like first," Dawn told him.  She looked at the boxes.  "I hope they got my stuffed animals."

"Four boxes of stuff?" Xander said.  "Probably.  Unless she brought the stuff you had outgrown."

"Maybe.  I really do have to call Giles to ask him if Mom left me anything else."  Xander patted her on the back.  "So, you expected Anya to clean you out?"

"Yeah, the last time she stomped off in a huff due to lack of oral sex she cleaned out both accounts and my small CD retirement fund, plus sold some of the stuff around the house.  I made her buy it all back with her own money.  I pointed out how very unfun jail was going to be and how she didn't like women that way so therefore she was going to give it all back or else she was going to spend a very long time there, no matter how short her skirt was."  Dawn snickered at that.  "She thinks she can get out of theft charges with a short skirt?  Nope."  He ate a bite, nodding. "This is good, Blair."

"Thanks, Xander.  How bad was Anya?"

"All she ever talked about was the money and the orgasms, and that's what she called it," Dawn said when Jim choked.  "Night and day, no matter who was around.  I don't know any woman who wouldn't be thrilled with the slave she made Xander become but she wasn't."  She shrugged, eating another bite.  "Yes, I am blunt as only teenagers can be."  She looked at Jethro.  "I'll try not to embarrass you."

"Depends on who you say it to.  You can be blunt with some and not with others.  Eat, you're too thin."  She nodded, digging in again.  Xander nudged her, giving her a look, getting a small smile.  "So, if it's not too nosy, what happened to your mother?"

"Brain tumor," she sighed, putting down her fork to take a drink.  "Which suddenly appeared one day out of nowhere, no prior signs, not even a headache until the day she passed out."  Jethro looked at her.

"This was at the end of the Initiative crap," Xander agreed at Jethro's look.  "I wasn't too sure of that myself.  It didn't seem right that she had a brain tumor the size of a walnut and didn't even have a headache.  Especially where hers was.  The CID guy said he couldn't find a record of it done officially.  So if it was, it was a personal thing."

"Riley's back in town," Dawn told him.

"Yay.  Buffy can have her torturing commando and we'll have something better and nicer," Xander told her simply, shrugging a bit.  He winced and rubbed the spot Willow had hit.  "You don't need a thug who gets off tasering victims."

"No, I don't.  I have better taste," she agreed.  "My closest to thug would be Spike, who had a poetic bent now and then."

"He used to be one, just an awful one," Xander told her.  "Kept trying to rhyme orange with door hinge."

"Well, depending on the accent," she offered.  Blair shook his head quickly, getting up to get some more water.  "Sorry."

"It's all right.  Maybe Jethro will meet Spike some day."

Xander looked at him.  "If you do, make sure the chip still works.  Otherwise he'll eat you."

"I'll remember that.  Thanks, kid."  He ate another bite, waving his fork at Dawn, who dug in again.

Jim looked at Xander.  "You date worse than Blair, don't you?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't know.  Blair, did you date a former Inca Mummy girl who needed to suck souls to live?"

"No," he said slowly and carefully.

"Xander did, he even made her leave my sister alone," Dawn said with a smirk for her friend.

"Hey, I brought Buffy back to life too," Xander said dryly.  "And gee, I slept with Faith too."

Dawn looked at him.  "I'm sorry.  Is that why you went out with Anya?  To try to make sure not all women were like Faith?"

"Maybe," he admitted.  "I think that was more her decision than mine.  She decided I was taking her to the prom and then it went from there.  She showed up one day, stripped naked, and climbed in, then never really left."  He ate another bite.  "It's like feeding a stray cat."

"Who then ate you out of house and home," Dawn reminded him.

"Yeah, she did.  Many times.  And expected constant petting."  He ate another bite then shrugged while he chewed.  "It happens."  He looked at Horatio.  "Any horror stories about you I should know?"

"He walks into dangerous situations without a vest and knows he's going to come out the other side," Jethro told him.  "Bombs too."

"Bombs can be nice," Xander admitted, "but that's probably not a healthy thing."

Horatio looked at him.  "Sometimes the situation calls for it."

"Ah, you've been single for a while," Dawn said.  Everyone stared at her.  "Only single guys do stupid stuff that can get them killed.  Married guys and taken guys are thinking about what their girls or guys will think if they get their stupid asses blown up."  She looked at Horatio.  "What'll happen if you die and leave Xander?"

"No one's sure," Jim admitted.  "I know if a guide dies then the sentinel usually goes insane and dies shortly afterward.  Blair?"

"Guides might be able to withstand a sentinel's death.  There's more of you than us it seems."  Jim nodded.  "We might get very, very hurt and probably go insane for a while but a new one would end up bringing us out if what I've read it right."

"Okay, so no one gets dead or I'm having them turned, that works for me," Dawn said.  Jethro gave her an odd look.  "Hey, I know some vamps who would.  I can ask Angel to come turn you when you're in a coma."  She stared him down.  "Deal?"  She smiled sweetly.

"I don't do things like that.  I have the normal risks for death on the job.  Which I'm not giving up."

"Not asking you to.  I'm asking you not to do stupid shit that'll get you dead.  Big difference.  It's like Xander standing against one vampire or Xander baiting ten vampires so Buffy can stake the vampires."

"It worked," Xander admitted.  "Though I felt really cheap since she dressed me up like a male whore."  He looked at Horatio.  "I'm sure you'll be as careful as you can so you don't die.  After all, who'll speak for the victims if you do die?"

"I try to keep that in mind," he agreed.

"Good.   Oh, crap.  All the weapons are in storage, Dawn."  He resisted the urge to slap himself in the head multiple times for not thinking about that earlier.  Pissed girls plus weapons equaled Very Bad Things for the world.  Ones that he might have to stop.  Plus, Buffy would be having PMS in another week; it was going to end the world this time if he didn't rescue his babies.

"And?  Not like Giles cares and my sister could use a good foot up the ass.  They'll do wonderfully in Miami."  Horatio looked around Xander so he could give her the funny look.  "He's our weapons guy."  She smiled sweetly.  "He's very good at it."

Horatio looked at Xander.  "We'll pick up your things on the way to Miami.  We'll fly out of LAX if you want."

"We can fly from here to the next town over, pick up crap, repack it if necessary, then leave from there to hit LAX or even McCairn in Vegas.  We have direct flights."

Horatio nodded. "We'll see if we can do that."  Xander gave him a shoulder nudge, earning a curious look.  "What?"

"Relax.  I dated demanding women.  I'm not like that myself.  They tried to make me their trained monkey slut boy.  I'm sure you're smarter than that."

"I am.  I learned to appreciate those around me."

"That would be nice," Xander admitted, smiling at him.  "We'll figure it out."  Horatio nodded, handing him the rolls.  "Thank you, kind sir."  He took one and dug in again, using the roll to sop up the stir fry's broth.

"Dawn?" Horatio offered.

"No thanks, I watch my carb intake since I'm not as hyper as I used to be.  I'll never get the hot boys to date me if I get fat."

"Maybe Tony can help her find a nice guy," Jim offered.

Jethro gave him an odd look. "Only if he weeds out all the guys like him."

"That's one way of finding the nice guys among the bastards," Xander told him.

"Tony's a playboy," Horatio told him.

"Does he run around in jammies too?" Dawn asked.

"Not at work," Jethro told her.  "Mostly smart suits."

"I guess that's okay.  I'm not much one for preppy boys."  She dug in again.  "You cook very well, Blair.  Can I get a recipe book before we go?"

"Sure, Dawn.  I've got one already bound.  I have to trade with my mother now and then."  Jim and Jethro both shuddered.  "You've met my mother, Jethro?"

"She was in DC last month, Sandburg.  I hate your mother.  Tony laughed at your mother.  Told her the priorities she was heaving around were out of whack with reality, that if she wanted to protest, go protest at some wife beater or child abuser's house instead.  It'd do more good than picketing congress by herself."  Jim whimpered.  "She huffed off to get a soy latte then found more people to protest with her."

Dawn shook her head.  "My momma raised me to be a sensible, caring girl, but to kick ass if necessary.  I will go protest outside some nasty guy's house to keep him from hurting his wife or kids, or boyfriend and kids.  Hell, I'll create a glowing sign above his head so *everyone* knows.  Did it to Anya once the time I found her cheating on Xander."

"Which allowed me to dump her and her not getting her powers back," Xander agreed proudly.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Maybe she went to find Dru and her slime demon honey for some."

"Could.  Brazil is full of pretty people.  She'd fit in."  He looked at Horatio.  "If I come running and hiding to get away from a girl, just hide me somewhere until she's gone, okay?"

"I can do that," Horatio agreed, smiling at him.  "Eat, Xander.  You're too skinny too."

Xander nodded.  "Anya threw out my candy stash before she left.  She was trying to make me eat tofu.  I went on a hunger strike at home."  He dug in, getting seconds, passing them to Jim when he grunted.

"At least no one's going to have a boring life anymore," Blair said with a happy grin.

"Knock my guide out for me please," Jim asked Horatio since he was closest.  "If I do it I'll get a headache.  If you do it, I'll get to sleep tonight."

Horatio looked at Blair.  "He said you scare him."

"I can always call my mom to come for a visit."

"I will run and hide," Jim assured him.  "Simon said I can camp at his house."

"Go ahead, remember she likes Simon.  A lot."  Jim moaned, holding his head.

Xander patted himself down then got up and got something from his bag, using it to knock Blair out. "Lasts twenty minutes and it'll make him forget the bad thoughts.  I used it on Buffy and Anya."

Jim took it from him. "Thanks, I'll keep this for the next time he doesn't wait in the truck."

Horatio looked at Xander.  "We'll talk about the weapons things later, Xander."

"Okay."  He smiled.  "Do you like bombs?"

"I used to be on the bomb squad."

"Cooollll," Xander breathed.  "We had to make the high school explode to keep the demon from ending the world."

"Jim, can I borrow that?" Jethro asked, taking the small ball to knock Xander out.  "There."  He handed it back.  He looked at Dawn. "Are you having bad thoughts too?"

"I don't like weapons.  I'm not a pacifist but I'm not a weapons girl by any means.  I'm a fashionable, smart girl.  Big difference."

"Good to know," Jethro said happily.  He smirked at Horatio.  "Have fun not being bored."

"Thank you," Horatio said, shifting Xander so he could rest more comfortably against his arm.  "Dawn, eat more before the slimy guys hit on you."

She took half of Xander's plate.  "He's used to it.  All us ladies do it to him now and then.  It's how he doesn't get fat from all the ho-hos and the twinkies."   She dug in again.

"Remember, you guys can call and talk to us whenever you need to," Jim said.

"Thanks," Jethro told him.

"I've got you on speed dial already," Horatio agreed.   Blair woke up so Horatio got him some more water.  "Here, you took a nap."

"Thanks, man.  I don't know why I'm so tired tonight."  He sipped his water, looking at Xander.  "I guess I'm not the only one."

"No, he conked out too," Jim said, hiding the device in his pocket.


Jethro walked Dawn into his unit the next Monday, letting her see where he worked.  "This is my row.  That is McGee playing a video game he's not supposed to have.  Ziva is the lady behind you trying not to size you up to kill you.  Where is DiNozzo?"

"With Abby in the lab, boss," McGee said, smiling and waving at Dawn.  "Hi.  On some sort of student assignment?"

"Her mother gave her to a friend of ours.  He's getting settled so she's staying with me."

Dawn felt someone come up behind her and turned to look at the guy standing there.  "Hi.  I'm Dawn."

"Tony DiNozzo."  He shook her hand, staring her down.  Then he sniffed.  "How was Blair's cooking?"

"Really good.  Fortunately he shared recipes."  She grinned at him.  "Where are you from?"

"Long Island.  You?"

"Sunnydale."  He noticed Ziva went pale so she looked at her too.  "I'm Dawn Isabelle Summers," she said, shaking her hand.  "Pleasure to meet you, Ziva."


"We're all formidable women but my sister's a bitch who said I'm not related."

Ziva nodded.  "Welcome to DC."

"Thank you."  She smiled at Tony again.  "Since I'm staying with Jethro, does he let you guys come out to eat so I can test recipes on you?  You look like you eat, unlike Jethro who apparently only drinks coffee and eats once a day."

"Now and then," he agreed.  He smiled at his boss.  "Whenever you agree of course, boss.  Should I take her down to meet Abby?"

"We can do that next, I came to get something off my desk and show her around.  Then I'll be back after lunch."  Tony nodded at that, walking off with them.  Once they were in the elevator he looked at her.  "McGee and Tony both know."

"Blair said Tony was a guide too," she agreed quietly.

"There's no cameras in here," Tony told her.  "We ripped them out long ago.  This is the boss's conference room."  He patted her on the shoulder.  "You'll do fine, Dawn, and I can work backup at scenes and things.  We'll get together to work with him."  She smiled and nodded.  "Good.  Now, Abby is a nice woman, no matter what you think."

"Please!  I'm used to vampires and things.  Xander, my buddy, was dating a former vengeance demon named Anyanka.  You can't get much more strange than the eleven- hundred-year-old former demon who was a nympho money grubbing ho."

Tony blinked.  "You're very blunt.  We'll enjoy the hell out of having you here."  Gibbs smacked him.  He looked at him.  "I will.  It'll give me someone to watch movies with."

"What did you think of _House of a Thousand Corpses_?" she asked.

"Gory but odd.  You?"

"Odd.  We giggled."  She grinned at Jethro.  "Relax.  I won't get into a kitty fight with him.  Really."

"I was hoping not but with the way DiNozzo hits sometimes you never know."  He turned back on the elevator, taking them to the lab.  He walked in and found the director in there.  "Director, this is Dawn Summers, she's staying with me while her other guardian gets settled.  Her mother left her to us."

"I'm not a couch," Dawn said, smacking him on the arm.  "She didn't leave me to you, she entrusted you with my gentle upbringing."  She looked at the director and smiled. "Hi.  How are you today, ma'am?"  She walked off giggling.  Dawn looked at her back.  "I'll deal with the bitchy cunt later," she decided, looking at the other woman.  "Hi."

"Hi," she said, staring at her.  "You're very...odd."

"I'm from Sunnydale.  We're like that out there near LA."

Abby gaped.  "You know vampires," she said in awe.

"My sister's killed a number of them and one babysat me."  Abby squealed and hugged her.  "Ooh, you hug nice."  She gave her a squeeze back.  "You'll be a good female role model, right?"

"Of course!  Now why are you really here?  You smell like incense.  Did Blair send you?"

"He put me on the plane with him after a few days training," Dawn agreed happily.  "With some recipes."

"That's so cool!" Abby said, hugging Gibbs.  "I'm so happy for you!  Even if she will drive you nuts!"  Dawn cackled, shaking her head.  "We'll see," Abby agreed.  "So, do you like forensics?"

"I don't know anything more than the show that Willow made us watch."

"Wow.  We can teach you a lot."  She drug her over to the computer.  "Can you hack?"

"That was another Willow activity, along with making magical boo-boos."

"Then we'll have a lot to teach you."

"I want her to be normal acting, Abby," Gibbs ordered.

"Of course."  She shrugged, then waved him off.  "Go away, go work, let us girls talk."

Tony came over to help.  "Let's listen to what McGee is explaining to Ziva."  He tapped into the video camera up there, listening to him explain that Dawn was not homicidal.  He looked at her.  "You're not, right?"

"No, that was my sister.  She's a slayer."

"Good."  He typed that in to McGee.  She took the keyboard to make notes for him.  He sent back a smiley face and went over them with her.  She smiled at Abby.  "Okay, that should be enough.  Now what?"

"Like guns?"

"That's Xander.  He's with Horatio."

"Oooh, two found at the same time?" Abby asked.

"Yes, Xander asked Horatio if he liked bombs," Jethro said dryly.  "Come on, Dawn.  They can come over tonight to bother you and mooch food.  I've got to go grocery shopping.  All I have is bourbon and a boat right now."

"A boat?  We're building a boat?  Can we go for a sail?  I've never been on a boat."

"When I get it done," he agreed, walking her off.  "After work, guys."  He walked her off.  Once they were in the elevator he looked at her.  "Don't threaten the director."

"She gave me the Anya vibe."

"We used to have a thing.  It was over long ago."

"Maybe not for her.  She still wants in the starched stuff, Jethro.  But I can keep it at kitty hissing for now.  Unless she gets you hurt."

"Thank you."  He led her back to the car, taking her back to his house, smiling when she went 'whee' as they pulled out of the parking garage.  She was definitely different.  He'd give it a month to see how much she grated on his nerves.  Then he and Horatio could complain and share stories of their guides driving them nuts before they complained to Blair.  Or Jim, he'd understand having an insane guide who did strange things.  Hopefully.


Horatio walked Xander into the lab, letting him look around.  "This is where I work."

"It's very much higher tech than I'm used to.  Lots and lots of whirry machines."  Horatio smiled at that.  "They are.  Ooh, guns, I know guns."

"That's ballistics, Xander."  He took him up to his office.  "This is my office."

"This is nice and airy.  Someone thought you needed sun."

"The sun is everywhere down here," he said gently.  He waved at the person leaning in.  "Eric, this is Xander.  Blair introduced us."

"Hey, finally," he said, smiling and shaking his hand.

"All it took was a parking garage falling on me."  Eric gave him a horrified look.  "I was in my car debating with myself about lunch when the garage got hit and fell on my car."

"Ow.  You okay?"  Xander held up his casted wrist.  "Could've been much worse."

"True.  Much, much worse."  He saw a blonde woman looking in.  "I'm not biting today, you can come in too.  Though if you're a bad girl please don't offer to date me.  I've had enough of those."

"No, I'm not," she said, looking confused. "New tech?"

"No, I'm a Xander."   He shook her hand with a smile.  "Horatio talked me into moving down here with him.  He said there's lots of work stuff."

"It depends on your field," she agreed, smiling at him.  "It's good that he found nice folk in Washington State."  She looked at him.

"Blair found him," he admitted.  She squealed and hugged him, making him flinch.  "Xander, she's not like your old friends," he said gently.  "She won't hurt you or I can spank her."

"Okay."  He gave her a hug.  "There, much better."  She smiled at him, patting him on the cheek until he let go.  He beamed.  "I'm getting better."

"Good.  Now, tell us about you?"

"I'm from Sunnydale.  By LA," he said when they both looked clueless.  That was a nice change.  "I've been working construction.   I have this very bad habit of dating evil wenches who want to kill me or suck me dry."  He shrugged.  "I haven't had much time for anything else recently."

"Earthquake?" Eric asked.

"No, I was on the town's protection patrol."

"Why?" she asked, starting to look confused.  He looked around then moved his shirt, making her stare at the scars.  "I guess it was necessary then."  He nodded, moving his shirt back into place.  "Well, you're in Miami now and we're not like that down here.  You're more likely to find shallow girls than bad ones.  I'll see if any of my girlfriends are single for you."  He shrugged but nodded.  "Good."  She smiled.  "Horatio, Speed's been trying to sneak back."

"I'll talk with him tonight, Calleigh.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  The new boy's been *okay* all week."

"Even better."  He smiled at them.  "I'm showing him around today."

"Okay."  They left, going back to work.  Eric looked at his buddy.  "That's an odd choice for his guide," he said quietly.

"Very but he seems nice."

"Maybe.  Something's still off."

"We're CSI, Eric, we can do a background check."

"Good.  You want or me?"

"I'm clear, I'll do one," she said, going to her lab to do that.

Horatio smiled at Xander.  "They're fine with you.  Going to tell Speed to expect us."

"Who's he?"

"Another coworker. He's been temping in as my guide while he's been out with a gunshot wound."

"Oh.  Okay."  He grinned.  "Should we go there before he worries?"

"We can do that."  He got up, taking him out, nodding at the receptionist.  "I'll be back in a few hours, let me get him settled."  She nodded, handing over a new message.  "Thank you."  He glanced at it on the way out.  "Let's make a detour."  He pushed a button on the elevator, letting them off on another floor.  "This is homicide and the detectives we work with most often."  He walked him off to one end of the room.  "Frank, Yelina, John?"  They all stared at him, John standing up.  "This is Xander."  Xander waved.  "He's just moving here from near LA, he was on a trip in Washington State when a parking garage fell on him."  Xander held up his cast.  Horatio looked at him.  "Don't pretend for them."

"Horatio won't let me have my semtex anymore," he complained.  The lone female giggled.  He looked at her.  "Are you evil too?"  She shook her head, giving him a kiss on the cheek.  "Thanks.  Maybe you can help the pretty blonde one find me unevil women since the last one I dated used to be in vengeance for women scorned."  John Hagen choked.  "So you know Anyanka?" he asked pleasantly.  "She's single again if you wanted.  Watch out for her energizer bunny nature."

"You're from where?" John asked finally.


John nodded, then looked at Horatio.  "You two are so suited," he mouthed.  He sat down again.  "Welcome to Miami, Xander.  Come to us if you need help."

"Sure, I can do that."  He grinned at the other guy.  "I don't mean to scare people.  Some people can't deal with a happy me though."

Frank looked at him then at Horatio.  "Blair?"

"Blair," he agreed.

"Welcome to Miami, kid.  We're here if you need help."

"Good to know."  He grinned at him.  "My little sister went to DC.  She's fifteen."

"Poor Jethro," Frank said, shaking his head.  "Anything we should watch out for?"  Xander pulled out a few pictures and handed them over.  "They're all girls."

"They're all former friends or exes.  I will run."  He nodded to show how serious he was.

"I can watch out for them," Frank agreed.  "Have fun settling in.  What're you going to be doing?"


Frank grimaced.  "How will that work?"

"Not a clue yet, Frank," Horatio admitted.

"Maybe you can have a secretary finally," John offered with a grin.

"I make coffee that made Jethro happy," Xander told him.  "I had to teach Dawn."

"That's a talent," John said, smirking at him.  "It'll work out, kid.  Go be happy in the sunshine with Horatio for the rest of today.  Nothing much happened while he was gone."  Horatio nodded, walking Xander off.  He looked at Frank.  "Which one do you think is doing the background check?"

"Calleigh," he said.  "She's clear.  Eric's got a rape/homicide at the moment."

"I'll call."  He called over there, talking quietly with her.  He even gave her a place to look.  Her burst of crying made him nod.  "Yeah, she's learning a lot about Xander."  He hung up, getting back to work.


Horatio knocked on a very plain door, nodding at the scruffy man on the other side with the sling on one arm.  "Speed, this is ....  Xander?" he called.  He came over with the cat he had pulled out from under the hummer.  "Thank you."

"She's the neighbor's beast," Speed said, looking at him.  "Go ahead and put her down.  There's no telling how many fleas she has this time."  Xander put her down on top of a manicured bush, following Horatio inside.  "So you're his guide?"  Xander nodded.  "Do you speak?" he asked as he closed the door.

"Yeah but he said you were grumpy most of the time so I'm trying hard not to have Willow flashbacks."

Speed blinked at that then at Horatio.  "Huh?"

"His friend, Speed.  She's apparently a bit grumpy with him recently."

"Because I'm not Special Girl like she and Buffy are," Xander agreed.  He smiled at him.  "Since I'm also good at reading body language, let me reassure you.  I'm not here to take your spot with him.  I date evil and psychotic women.  They think I'm better than sliced cheese.  Also, I can't share work with him.  I'm not that smart.  I can do other stuff, I was on the Sunnydale protection patrol.  I've hunted a lot of things over the last few years.  I don't want to break you two up or get between whatever you two have.  Okay?"

"Good," he agreed.  "But we're just friends, kid."

Xander cackled.  "Sure, and I'm the tooth fairy.  Don't you see the pretty tutu?"

Speed stared at him for a minute then at Horatio.  "Jethro said he was like a child between DiNozzo and Abby.  They both are but Dawn's more like Abby and he's more like DiNozzo."

"That's a bad thought," he decided.  He looked at Xander again.  "What else can you do?"

"Construction. A  lot of fast food stuff.  I can stake a vampire, behead most demons, date former demons who turn into nympho sluts with money-grubbing tendencies. I can repair battle axes, swords, crossbows, most guns, make bombs, make bullets, bolts, and stakes.  Um, I can swim kinda.  I was on the swim team to find out why they were turning into fish monsters," he offered, trying for an upbeat ending.  "Does he take your plastic explosives away from you too?"

"I don't like explosives but he probably would if I did," Speed admitted, looking very confused.  "You're not normal, are you?"

"No.  But only one other person today realized where I'm from."


"John Hagen," Horatio told him.  "He's been fighting to protect others out there for years, Speed.  For right now, we need to figure out how to work this while I'm on scenes and he's working construction."

"I'll have a few weeks off until my wrist heals," Xander reminded him.  "That means I've got to find a cheap apartment and get the rest of my stuff shipped."

"You can have my guest room."

"That would cramp your dating style, Horatio, and I'm not here to bust into your thing with Speed."

"We're still not dating," Speed told him.  Xander gave him another look.  "Really, I date women, H dates women.  Eric dates women.  Calleigh dates Hagen, but that's her thing."  He looked at his boss again. "Have you introduced him to Alexx?"

"Not yet," he admitted. "I figured the others would warn her first and then bring her over.  Xander, for right now, I want you in my spare room so we can continue working on my skills.  All right?"

"Okay.  I can do that.  It'll mean saving more money for the later apartment."

"Good.  Let's get you settled in there.  Call the others for dinner, Speed?"

"I can do that, H.  Sure.  Nice to meet you, Xander.  I'll see you later after I take a nap."  He pointed at his shoulder in explanation, a flimsy one.

"Okay, that's fine."  He grinned.  "I can even kinda cook."  Speed smiled at that, nodding a bit.  "See you later."  He walked out, letting Horatio calm him down.

"He'll be fine once he settles down," Horatio said gently.

Speed looked at him.  "You hope."

"I know."

"No, you hope, H.  You hope a lot."

"Jethro got his semi-sister.  She's fifteen."

"I'll send him a sympathy card for having an even bouncier guide.  You might wanna go stop him before he changes the radio station or something."  Horatio smiled, letting himself out.  Speed took a painkiller and laid down on the couch.  The others would warn Alexx.  They were like that.  He could nap off the exertion.  Because Xander seemed to suck energy from him by the yard.


Dawn came down from putting her stuff up in her room, looking around the rustic house.  She looked at him.  "Permission to do a bit of redecorating?  Like curtains?" she asked at the head shake.  "That way you have some and some pervy little brat doesn't peek in to see me in my jammies?" she offered.

"There's blinds."

She walked over to look at them, then looked outside.  "Who's your stalker?"

Gibbs looked then at her.  "An FBI agent who annoys us now and then."  He walked over to the front door, opening it.  "What?" he called.  "Another death threat?"

"We got told you were bringing an underaged woman home?"

Dawn came out onto the porch.  "Come here, little boy."  He smirked and walked up there until she grabbed his  ear and used it to slam his head into the porch.  "My mother recently died and Jethro is taking care of me while my guardian settles in.  So shut the fuck up before I ruin your little pretty boy face.  Am.  I.  Clear?" she snarled.  He nodded quickly, backing away holding his nose.  "Does anyone actually believe he'd go for an underage girl?"  He shook his head quickly, backing up further.  "Then you can tell them what I said, can't you?"  He nodded, turning and running off.  She smiled at Jethro.  "I feel better now."

"Need the midol?"

She checked the date on his watch.  "Not for another week and a half but thanks for asking."  She patted him on the arm.  "Want sandwiches for lunch or should I try to make something better?"

"Sandwiches are fine, Dawn.  Thanks."  He watched the agent sit in his car, shaking his head while he pulled out his phone.  "Fornell, you sent  a wimp out to pick on me about getting a guardian?"  He listened.  "No, she slammed his head into a post on the porch.  Bloodied his nose.  Twisted his ear.  She's making sandwiches.  Yes, exactly like some of my ex-wives.  Sure, we're here."  He hung up, walking inside.  "Make a third one for Fornell."

"Who's Fornell?"

"That one's boss.  No more threatening today, Dawn. It's not necessary.  I scare them plenty."

"Okay.  If you're sure."  She handed over the sandwich and pointed at the coffee maker. "I started you some.  Should I change?"

He looked at her skirt and shirt.  "I ... if you're not comfortable."  She gave him a look, tapping a foot.  "Into something more comfortable?"

"Okay."  She went to do that, unpacking her things quickly and efficiently.  Willow was a bit anal about how she packed things so it was easy enough.  She came down in sweats, her hair tied back in a ponytail, but the same t-shirt on, only now she had on socks and was carrying her sneakers.  "Better?"

"Much.  Now you look like a teenager."

"I try now and then," she quipped.  She sat down with her own sandwich.  "That does bring up a point."

"You can have an allowance."

"Sure.  That'll be handy.  School stuff?"

"We'll look online tonight if DiNozzo doesn't bring over suggestions with Abby."  He ate a bite, looking over when someone walked up to the door, waving him inside.

"We don't lock the door?"

"Everyone knows I'd shoot them."

"Good to know."  She smiled at the guy coming in.  "Is the babyman yours?"

He paused then smirked and nodded.  "He is, Miss Summers."

"Cool.  Who did the background on my sister, the twat?"

"Dawn," Jethro warned.

"Even you called her that, only in politer terms.  I'm not going to be polite about her stunt this time.  I'm sorry, I'm just as human as she is."  She looked at Fornell.  "Well?"

"We've talked to CID."

"I liked the guy they sent.  He took hints when we gave them.  He didn't get eaten.  He was a decent guy when Mom died."

"I'm sorry for your loss," he said, sitting down.  She got up to get him the other sandwich and some coffee.  "Thank you."  He looked at Jethro.  "She's very energetic."

"I'm also not two.  Don't talk about me like I'm not in the room or I'll smack you around too," Dawn said dryly, staring at him.  Fornell burst out laughing, nodding.  "Thanks for your cooperation."

"I like you, you've got spunk.  Like Kate did."

Gibbs nodded.  "She would have appreciated you a lot," he agreed.

"Did she retire?"

"Shot by an assassin," Gibbs admitted, looking at her.

"And yet we don't lock the door?" she asked.

Gibbs shrugged.  "We'll work that out."

"Okay but I reserve the right to go Sunnydale on someone if they come in here."

"Good, you should," Gibbs agreed.  She smiled at that.  "Eat.  Don't make me nag.  That's DiNozzo's job.  That and budget meetings."

Dawn snickered, digging in again.  "If you say so.  So was that a smart suit or not?"

"He was trying to look smart, and I meant smart as in good looking.  That usage."

She looked at him.  "If you say so.  He could've used some tailoring to bring out the best qualities and it didn't go with his eyes.  Just my opinion and I am a teenager."  She finished her sandwich and got up to get some water.  She tasted it and grimaced.  "Can we get a filter pitcher?"

"Sure," Gibbs agreed.  "It needs a new filter."

"Even cheaper," she agreed happily.  "Unless you wanted to put one on the faucet itself?  We had one of those."

"You can?"  She nodded.  "We'll look at that later."

"Okay."  She sat down after getting some ice, staring at Fornell like he was staring at her.  "I promise I won't grow a huge, nasty zit if you don't stare at my nose."  He smiled and nodded, going back to his eating.  She looked at Gibbs.  "So what else can I do around here besides cook?"

"He works funny hours," Fornell warned. "Sometimes overnights."

"I'll expect to be warned if he's going to be later than seven?" she suggested.

"That'll work," he agreed.  "More than enough time to call if I need to."  She nodded.  "And you'll call if you've got a date or something, right?"

"Yuppers, I can do that."

"Good.  No sex in the house, no boys in the house until I've met and threatened them.  No touching the boat without permission.  No drinking, no drugs, no going naked around the house."

"I can abide by those, but showers necessitate being naked unless you're a Mormon and have one of their modesty underoutfits that they take off part of to wash and then the rest to wash."

"You can wear a robe or a towel between the two at the least," he ordered.  She nodded that was acceptable.  "Anything you want?"


"The only tv's in the basement."

"I can beg Giles, Gibbs.  I need cable.  I am a teenager.  Plus, hey, educational stuff and the food network."

He stared at her.  "We'll see about getting basic cable."

"Thank you.  Until then do you think Tony would mind me borrowing movies?"

"The only tv is in the basement with the boat and there's no VCR."

"My laptop has a DVD player built in," she told him.  Fornell laughed.  "Mom made sure.  That way I could watch stuff she said was stupid.  As long as it wasn't porn."

"I'd appreciate that too."

"And I'll gladly leave any of yours I find lying around alone," she agreed.

"I don't use that stuff, Dawn," he said patiently.

"I'm sorry.  Was it an injury or just a little blue pill thing?"

"Three ex-wives," Fornell told her.  "Enough to wreck any man's libido."

She looked at him.  "Then why does Xander still have function when he dated Anya?"

"I'm not sure how any man would be alive after dating her," Gibbs admitted.  He looked at Fornell.  "The other guide found.  He's in Miami.  His ex called to tell him to come home."

"I thought he should've let Horatio have the phone but it was kinda funny that Blair told her how much fabulous fun they were having together."

Fornell shook his head slowly.  "I'll have to go to Miami the next case down there."

"Xander can kick butt better than I can," Dawn said proudly.  "He was teaching me."

"Good, you need it," Fornell assured her.  "We'll let Officer David keep instructing you."

"She was the one who was muttering prayers in Hebrew as I walked past her desk, right?"  Jethro nodded.  "Huh.  Doesn't seem too nice to me.  What about that McGee guy?"

"Cyber geek," Fornell told her.

"That's kinda cool.  So he's like an un-witchly lovin' Willow?  I could stand that."

"As far as I know he doesn't practice any form of magic or alternative belief, except for a role playing game where he plays an elf lord," Gibbs told her.

"Even better.  No witchly mistakes.  That'll be nice for a change.  Last time I ended up without any memories for a few days."

"Why?" Fornell asked.

"Willow," Gibbs told him.  "She brought her stuff up too, floating it all the way."

"I hate them.  You can never put them in reports and when your boss catches you at it he doesn't believe you until you call them in.  Then he tells you to go away and blocks you from advancing."

"I don't make mistakes like that and you can ignore me all you want if I have to do that stuff," Dawn offered.

"I will.  Thank you."  She grinned.  "See, I'm not the meanest one, but I would appreciate you apologizing to my agent."

"Nope.  He thought Gibbs and I were having the sex and getting down and funky like weasels."

Gibbs put his head down, shaking it.  "Speak English, Dawn.  Please," he begged.

"I am!"   She stroked through his hair.  "It'll be okay.  You'll get used to me."

He looked at her.  "I'm not sure if that's a bad thing or not."  She popped him like he had popped DiNozzo on the head.

"You're a fast learner," Fornell teased.

"Of course I am."  She smiled at him.  "Would you rather have Xander?"

"No, that's all right.  He might stake Ziva and then we'd be in trouble since she's a liaison officer from Israel."

Dawn shrugged.  "I kinda read Hebrew and Latin.  Giles was teaching me so I could help with research duties."

"I'll keep that in mind."  He looked at Fornell.  "Which school is closest?"

"There's a few decent ones.  One public, one Catholic, one private."

"Cheap," Dawn told him.

"Public is free, not too many violence complaints," he offered.  "You can look them up online later."

"Okay."  She looked at Jethro, who nodded.  "Not Catholic, okay?"

"Definitely not an issue.  I'm not.  DiNozzo might be.  Not sure."

"I'm a whatever floats your boat as long as you don't force it on me girl, Gibbs."

"That's fine.  Keep any Wiccan stuff up in your room."

"I can do that on the windowsill.  I'm not really practicing anyway."

"Good.  I like that even better.  What else did we have to do today?"

"Make sure you've got everything you need for the rest of the week.  Laundry and that stuff?" she suggested.  He pointed at the closet behind him.  "Good to know.   We got groceries.  You have stuff to cook in, right?"  He nodded.  "Even better.  We have all my stuff here thanks to Willow.  I need to call Giles and you need to call the cable company."  Fornell snickered again.  "I am a teenager.  I'll go insane without cable."

"I said we'll see."  She pouted at him.  "That doesn't work on me.  The Marines taught me I didn't have to respond to that look or torture."

"Then I'll have to ask Giles."  She smiled.  "Oh, cellphone for me?"

"I'll get you one through ours.  What about your one from LA?"  She went to find it, bringing it back down.  "That's new."

"Xander got it for me so he could find me if I got into trouble."

"Is he the only one who paid attention to you?"

"Tara did too."

"No wonder you shoplifted for a bit."  Dawn nodded.  Fornell gaped.  "It was for the attention."

"Buffy decided I'm a thing."

"I'm sorry.  Can we have her arrested?"

"Well, she did work with the Initiative," she offered.  Gibbs spluttered his coffee.  "She was dating Riley when they found out about each other.  She let them train her to see what she could do.  Until they took Oz, and then they created this ADAM creature that was going to end the world."

"Interesting," Fornell said.  She smirked meanly at him.  "Can I tell CID that?"

"Like I care, Fornell.  I'm not two.  I know who I was saying stuff in front of."

"Good point.  I'll let that bit be known, Dawn.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  I still have to call Giles."  She took her phone back and dialed, putting it against her ear.  "Hi, Giles, it's me.  I'm settled in DC at Jethro's.  Yeah, until Xander can set somewhere up for me.  Well, there's no cable.  He lives in the middle of nowhere.  I might have to start chopping wood for entertainment."

"Try the oak if you do," Gibbs told her.

"Or summoning demons."

"Only if you sleep outside," he said, taking another sip of coffee.

"But he's going to let me date and all that neat stuff."  She heard the splutter.  "No, Xander's in Miami finding a place to live and all that stuff.  He's a Marine, Giles, and he does what Phelps does only for them and the Navy.  Yeah, that guy.  No, no cable.  No internet.  Local public school I can enroll in.  Oh, I think I saw Ethan earlier.  Dark hair, British like you, only thinner and that stuff?"  She listened to the description.  "Yeah, him.  No, he gave me a very long look and then an evil smirk so I flipped him off in the airport.  I don't know if he was coming or going, Giles.  You can ask him if you still talk to him.  No, I've got my laptop but nothing else to do.  I know there's always homework but not that much.  Well, if Phelps is there ask him about Jethro Gibbs.  They probably know about him over there since he does the same job."  Giles did that and Phelps started to rant and swear about him being an uptight ass.  "Gibbs, Phelps said that you're an uptight asshole who sends Tony to bother others for shits and giggles."

"Only now and then," he admitted.  "It's fun watching DiNozzo charm and then irritate half of the female agents in DC."

Dawn snickered, repeating that.  She snickered more when Giles handed over the phone. "He said you're right, Phelps.  No, I'm sitting here with him and Fornell after making lunch.  Sandwiches.  No, he doesn't eat FBI agents for lunch.  Maybe for dinner but I'd have to abstain.  They say if you eat people you can't go back to normal meat.  Being a cannibal sounds gross anyway.  We can't taste that good.  Except maybe Xander since he seems to live on twinkies and other sugary goodness.  Calling to tell Giles where I am and that I'm safe, that I think I ran into Ethan or one of his clones.  That I heard Riley Finn was back in town.  To nag and see if he could slip me one of the spare tv's lying around the group's stuff so Jethro will spring for cable.  Little stuff.  Xander probably had to leave his when he went to Miami with another friend.  No, his name's Horatio.  Why?"  She grinned.

"Jethro said he was a nicer, more civilized and polite version of himself sometimes.  But he and Xander seemed to get along okay.  No, he was visiting the people Jethro was when they decided to help Xander after the parking garage fell on him.  Also, ask Giles if Mommy left me anything else please?  Because all of Mom's jewelry went to Buffy?  The house went to Buffy?  Please!  Mom knew very well she'd never keep it up.  Buffy can't even keep up her grades, much less a house."  She listened to him ask and Giles take the phone back, telling her what she had been left.  "All I got was the stuff from my room, Giles.  Yeah I am going to be vindictive.  Buffy's a twat who helped the Initiative.  She laughed when she found out Xander had been hit with the parking garage and got trapped.  She doesn't deserve either of us or you or Tara.  She and Willow can have each other," she said at his protesting noise.

"Yes, I'm serious!  You know what, they made me of her, so yeah, she's still my mom too.  That's her faulty wiring problem.  Maybe the next boyfriend will knock her around so she gets sense.  Not that I'm for girlfriend abuse or anything but she does it to her boyfriends.  Yeah, she did, and she did it to Spike too, Giles.  Yes, she was screwing him in Mom's bed, damn it.  I caught her.  You want to know how I know she's bad?  She called Xander's name, Giles.  That means she's a heathen wench or a bad girl in the making who'll destroy the world.  If I can get Xander to agree can I have his tv so Jethro can get cable?  Please?  Because he's a Fed and a busy Fed at that, Giles.  I'm going to be here after school and I need noise.  Thank you!"  She rolled her eyes.  "No, I'm staying here until Xander gets things settled in Miami.  Of course I'll write once I get internet access, Giles.  No, I'm not writing to anyone but you and Tara.  She can leap.  She didn't want me, she lost the best things in her life that week.  It's her own stupidity and arrogance.  She and Willow deserve each other."

He said something and she twirled some of her hair around her finger.  "Yay.  Very yay, Giles.  I'll make sure my future kids aren't like her.  Definitely.  Now, can I have his tv and the other stuff Mommy left me before slutty vampire ho there sells it?"  She nodded. "That's fine, Tara has my address.  I sent it to her before we flew back last night.  Thank you, Giles.  No, I'm here.  He'll give me a small allowance so I can afford the necessary things.  Giles, tampons, those things?  You know, girl stuff?"  She rolled his eyes.  "I know you've seen tampons laying around.  You're surrounded by young women."  She blew out a breath.  "Thanks.  I'll be here for at least a few months.  Because he's got to afford a place, Giles.  You know, first, last, deposit, utility deposits, all that stuff.  Anya did the stealing thing again so he's broke, even though he had enough savings before to afford it - at least until she saw something she wanted.  Sure, I'll be here.  I'm sure Phelps can give you Jethro's email address as well.  Thanks, man.  Laters."  She hung up then shut off her phone, looking at him.  "I'm getting Xander's tv, the rest of the stuff Mom left me if Buffy hasn't sold it on me, and he's going to go slap the bitch for me.  It's a good day's work."

"Quit swearing," Gibbs ordered.  "Anything else you have to do?"

"Can I tell you about Willow's hacking?" she asked with a sweet smile.

"You can tell McGee later tonight and he'll see if she's an annoyance or anything," he offered.  "He handles that for me, him or Abby."

"Great.  What should I make for dinner tonight?"

"We bought a chicken, make that," he ordered.  She smiled and got up to find it in the fridge, looking it over for feathers and things.  "It'll be six or seven, Dawn."

"It can marinate.  Blair said so.  So did Mommy."  She found what she needed then ran upstairs to get Blair's cookbook, bringing it back down to mix up the marinade while she rinsed out the inner cavity.  "So that's why Mom's tasted like garlic.  Do you want me to try stuffing too, Jethro?"

"There's a box of it in the cupboard," he offered.  She nodded, checking it over.  She showed him the expiration date from last year.  "Then make rice."  She nodded, finding that and pulling that down to make sure they had everything.  She looked at him then made out a list with a grin, handing it over. "Fine, I'll finish the shopping.  Should I get you midol?"

"No, I don't usually need it.  I'll be satisfied this time with being a vindictive girl.  It goes well with the grief."  She smiled at Fornell.  "Are you staying for dinner too?"

"No, I've got a daughter to go home to."  She cooed.  "If Jethro lets you and you behave I'll think about letting you babysit now and then."

"Okay."  She grinned and got back to work.  "No one at the office has any allergies, right, Jethro?"

"How should I know?"

She sighed and patted him down, finding his cellphone.  She called the number for DiNozzo.  "Tony, it's Dawn.  I'm starting stuff for dinner.  There's no food allergies, right?"  She nodded.  "Okay, that's all I needed.  Grocery shopping in a few minutes and Fornell's going to baby the stupid babyman agent who came to taunt Jethro about me being my age.  Oh, tell McGee Jethro told me I was to tell him about how Willow was a hacker because I'm in a vindictive mood thanks to my sister.  Thanks."  She hung up and handed it back with a smile.  "Abby won't eat guts."

"Okay," he said, nodding at that.  "Don't make the parts inside the paper bag."

"I know.  Shoo.  Let me cook."  He headed off, taking Fornell with him.

"You've got one hell of a girl there, Jethro. You sure you can handle her?"

"She's fifteen, she'll calm down," he said.  Fornell walked off laughing.  "She will."  He got into his car, heading for the grocery store again.  The list wasn't that extensive but a few things he'd have to hunt for.  What was candied ginger and what did it have to do with chicken and rice?


Xander looked around the modest house, smiling at Horatio.  "You didn't decorate, huh?"

"I never seem to be here," he admitted.

"Sometimes doing the good things means that you don't get sleep," Xander said, patting him on the arm.  "It'll work itself out, Horatio.  Don't push it or you'll end up rejecting me and need Dawn instead."  He shook his head quickly.  "Good, then let's work on dinner since everyone's coming over?"

"I can do that.  Did you get Blair's cookbook too?"

"No, I like normal food.  Normal food is good."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Blair was going to make us eat humus, which is this strange bean stuff that's really gross and nasty looking.  Looks like someone puked up peanut butter."  Horatio smiled at that, walking him into the kitchen.  "Okay, let's see what you have so we can see what we should cook."  He looked in the fridge, finding eggs that were starting to smell and some very chunky milk.  He looked at his sentinel, giving him an odd look.  "When was the last time you ate something that was cooked in here?"

"It's been a few weeks," he admitted.

"Uh-huh."  He tugged on his arm, dragging him back out to the hummer. "You have room for groceries in this thing.  We can get groceries so I can cook for dinner."  He got in, letting Horatio get in the driver's side.  "What meat bearing beast did you want tonight?"

"I don't think it'll matter.  Alexx usually cooks."

Xander looked at him.  "Why make her cook after a long day at work?  That's mean."

"Thousands of people do it every night, Xander."

"It's still mean to make her make an impromptu get-together meal for at least six people.  I can cook and you can call her to tell her not to cook so much."  He stared him down.  "Can I drive?"

"No.  This is an official vehicle and only we can drive them."  He started the engine, taking Xander to his favorite market.  Once the boy was inside, he called Alexx.  "We're having dinner tonight.  I need to tell Xander how many he's cooking for.  Because he said it's mean to make you do so after work, Alexx.   I figured you had heard by now."  He nodded.  "Xander, nine," he said, walking up behind him.  "Any particular meat you wanted?"  He pointed at some beef.  "That's fine, Alexx.  We'll see you then.  No, he gave my refrigerator a horrified look."  He smiled.  "That'll work.  Tell Speed too."

"Tell Speed if he wants to cook make side dishes," Xander told him.

"Did you hear that?  Of course you can bring a dessert.  That'll work.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "Beef.  She suggested a roast."

"The only way I know how to cook roast is in a crockpot.  How about this?" he suggested, finding something and holding it up, getting a confused look.  "You smoosh it out, you put stuffing in it, you roll it up, then you bake it for about an hour."

"If that's what you want to make, Xander.  Make enough for at least nine people."

"I can do that."  He put that one back, getting a larger piece.  "That'll feed more so maybe you'll have lunch tomorrow.  Do you want regular stuffing, oyster stuffing, or something else in the center?"  He looked over at the silence, smiling.  "All that used to be on during the day was cooking shows or animal planet.  I can only stand so much animals giving birth or the animal version of CPS."  Horatio cracked a smile at that.  "Want bread stuffing, oyster stuffing, or veggies?  I can do any of them just as easily."

"Go ahead and do regular stuffing."  Xander nodded, getting the ingredients for that.  He also got some asparagus.  "What are we doing with that?"

"We are making a casserole."  He grabbed the salsa con queso in a jar and some bacon bits, then an onion and moved on.  A few more pieces of vegetables for a veggie tray and a pre-canned ranch dip along with some crackers.  "Okay, that's for tonight.  Do we need soda or water or anything?"

"If you want soda you'll need some."  Xander nodded, going to get that and some milk.  "Are we done?"

Xander looked at him.  "That depends, what am I making you for lunch?  Sandwiches or not?"

"You're making me lunch?"

"You're going to eat even if I do have to turn into Dawn's mother.  You can't skip meals.  You'll pass out or something else will happen.  Blair said so."

"Fine.  Sandwiches are good.  Ham?"

"Up to you, they're your lunch."  He walked off, going to find what he needed for those.  "Any type of cheese you like?"

"Whatever's fine.  Xander gave him another look.  "Really.  Usually I eat out of the machines."

Xander sighed, shaking his head.  He got what he wanted, dragging him on another circuit of the grocery store.  He made it back to the checkout, he was even nice enough to pay for things.  Then he made Horatio load it into the hummer, letting him drive him back home.  A glass of soda and then Xander got to work cleaning the stove that had seen happier times.  It took three scrubbing pads but it was finally clean and ready to be used.  Then he got to work on the pans.  They were all clean too.  The counters were clean.  He laid out the plastic wrap for the meat, putting it on top, then covering it.  No mallet meant he used a can.  It was therapeutic.  Horatio leaned in at the banging.  "It's good for your arms."  He went back to it, making it as thin as he could.  He let it rest while he got to work on the stuffing, spreading it evenly.  He carefully rolled it up, placing it into the clean pan. The oven got turned on and he went to wash his hands while it warmed up.

He finished his glass of soda, got some more, and put the meat into the oven.  The onion and a frying pan came out, that way he could turn them into caramelized masses of sweetness.  While that worked he trimmed and cleaned the asparagus.  He looked at it, then frowned. "I should probably blanche you."  He ran some water, doing that quickly.  It was enough.  They were put into a glass dish, the onion being poured in there with them.  The salsa con queso was poured on top with the bacon bits being spread around on top in an artistic manner.  He'd put that in the oven in a little while so it went into the fridge for now since he heard a fly.  He put out a small bit of the cheese sauce, watching as the fly landed, then he smacked it with his hand.  The mess and his hand got cleaned up.  He looked around, then went to look at the view.  "This is beautiful.  I can see how it soothes you," he said, walking out to join Horatio on the back porch.  "We have enough plates and stuff, right?"

"We do," he agreed.  He smiled at him.  "More pounding?"

"A fly.  I smacked it, it's dead."  He sat down with his soda, putting his feet up.  "You do realize I'm a fussing sort?"

"I did when you filled my house with more food than it's had for the last year," he admitted, looking at him.  Xander just grinned back.  "Do you like to cook?"

"I enjoy it as a hobby.  I couldn't take the pressure of doing it professionally.  Doing it in a hibachi place was bad enough.  Waiting tables at the country club wasn't much better.  Fast food was worse."  He heard a knock, getting up to answer the door.  "He's on the back porch, Frank," he said, going to check on the meat.  They probably needed to discuss a case.

Frank came into the kitchen.  "It's clean.  He hasn't had the time or the energy to do that in months."

Xander grinned.  "I'm full of energy.  No one's got any food allergies, right?  I forgot to ask."

"No, not that I know of."  Xander nodded.  "They should be here in about a half hour or so."

"That's fine."  Xander took out the casserole to warm up to room temperature, then slid it into the oven once the meat came out.  He checked the temperature in a few places, nodding that it was good.  Then he grinned at Frank.  "I know, I'm odd.  I used to have to watch the food network.  It was that, talk shows, or Animal Planet."

Frank grinned.  "It's good to like to cook.  Where's the boss?"

"Back porch."

"I'll go nag him."

"I've done some of that today," he admitted.  Frank walked off laughing.  He smiled, getting back to his fixing.  Speed came over next with a few warm trays of stuff.  "Ah, food.  Need the oven?  I've got a casserole in there."

"No, it'll be fine to be served."  He checked the kitchen, then him.  "Been hard at work?"

"If he doesn't eat, he'll pass out and Blair thinks that's why he's been getting so many spikes.  It's increasing the stress on his body.  He said the first thing I had to do was to make Horatio eat, so I am."  He finished with a smile.  "What'd you bring?"

"Some light nibbling stuff.  What are you making?"  Xander pointed.  "That's a roullade."

"I know.  I didn't have anything beyond food network when I was working nights."  Speed smiled.  "Plus, Anya couldn't cook worth a damn.  She tried to poison me twice."  He helped him unpack the food, looking under the foil.  "Those'll go great.  I stuffed the meat with plain stuffing."  He checked the other casserole, taking it out since it was starting to brown.  "Will Alexx need the oven?"

"No, probably not."  Xander turned it off, letting the casserole rest for now, tenting some tin foil over it in case they got more flies.  "Alexx is doing a quick pie.  Canned fruit and a ready-made crust."

"Tell her she can bake it here if she wants," he ordered.  He walked off doing that while Xander checked the plates.  A few were dusty so he pulled down the stack to clean, dropping a bit of water on some of the tinfoil at one point.  "Oops."  He carefully wiped it off.  Speed peeked in.  "Got some water on it when I moved to clean the counter again.  I wiped it off."

"I know you're not trying to sabotage things," he said.  "Relax."

"I am."  He looked at him.  "Why wouldn't I be? Not like you guys are an invasion or vampires or something."

"Good point."  He went back out to the porch.  Alexx came in, heading for the oven.  "He just turned it off, Alexx."

"That's good.  It'll cook quick enough."  He grinned, opening the door for her.  "Thank you, sugar."  She turned on the oven, then pinched him on the cheek.  "Wow, Speed made real food."

"No, he made real food, I made the nibbling stuff," Speed called.  "We're on the porch."

"Coming."  She drug Xander out.  "Let the plates dry, Xander."

"There's a few more pieces of silverware."  She nodded, letting him get back to it.  Then he followed her out with a new glass of soda, getting a look from Horatio.  "I'm used to living on caffeine."

"No wonder you made coffee Jethro liked," Frank teased.

"No, that was construction worker coffee."  That got some laughs.  "We're ready to eat when everyone else gets here."

"They'll all like and accept you, Xander.  You can relax," Speed told him.

He frowned. "I am relaxed.  I'm hyper by nature."  He grinned at him.  "Really.  I gave up wondering if people liked me years ago.  Horatio can even tell you why since he met the reasons."

"I did.  Thank you for telling your ex-girlfriend you were moving to Baltimore and then New York if you couldn't find work there," Horatio said.  He finished his water.  "Someone call the others.  It smells good."

"I'll serve, the others can get their own when they get here," Speed said, going to dish up the food.  Xander's meat dish was still tender and cut very easily.  The casserole got an odd look.  "Xander, how do you dish this up?"

"Cut with the spoon.  The asparagus is in chunks," he called.

"Okay."  He did that, adding what he knew the others liked to their plates.  He brought out Frank and Alexx's, then Xander and Horatio's, then his, sitting down to eat.  "I refoiled everything.  Alexx, your pie is nearly done."  She nodded, going to check on it.  She also let in the others, helping them fill their own plates.  Speed ate a piece of the meat dish and moaned.  "Oh, that's good.  What sort of stuffing?"

"Regular.  He said he didn't want me to use the oyster stuffing or plain veggies."

Speed grinned.  "You do this nearly as well as I do."  He ate another bite, then tried the casserole Xander had made.  It was a bit odd but it went together.  "Salsa con queso?"  Xander beamed and nodded.  "College student cooking."

"With caramelized onions and bacon bits on top."

"It is very good," Horatio agreed, finishing up his.  He went to get seconds, finding Eric looking at the casserole.  "It's asparagus, cheese sauce, and onions, Eric."

"I know what that sauce is.  Momma said it was sacrilege."

"No, that's using Sarah Lee cakes to line the cake pan for a new cake," Xander told him.  "I told a chef where I worked that and he laughed and said it made it pretty."  He dished him up some, giving him a little nudge. "Go eat.  Speed can steal it from you if you don't like it."  He nodded going to do that.  He got some more himself and some more of Speed's nibbling stuff, liking the bacony fried tomatoes.  He walked back out there, sitting down against the railing since Calleigh had his seat.  "Are we missing someone?"

"Ryan's on his way out.  Yelina isn't coming tonight and John's got the late shift," Frank said between bites.  "I still think those tomatoes need a good cheese," he told Speed, who shrugged.

"I think he should bigger chunks of bacon," Xander told him.  "Or maybe crush it down into a dressing."

"I've done that in the past but it takes more work than my shoulder could stand today," Speed told him.

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine.  I'm alive."  Xander looked at him then nodded.  "Been there?"  Xander took off his shirt, letting him see.  "Damn."

"I fought since tenth grade, Speed.  There's been plenty that have been that close."  He put back on his shirt since Horatio was coming back.  "Did we leave enough for the other person coming?"

"We did," Horatio agreed.  "You did an excellent job and on the kitchen.  Thank you for that."

"You're welcome.  I know you work a very demanding job, Horatio.  Especially with it being so emotionally draining now and then.  It's not a problem for me to cook."  He dug in again. "Though I do want this tomato recipe, Speed."

"Sure, I'll write it down when I get home," he agreed, smiling at Horatio.  Xander got up when someone knocked, letting the new kid in.  "Ah, my surrogate."  The guy brought his plate out.  "Hey."

"Speed.  How's your arm?"

"Doing okay.  Is Eric still being an asshole?"

"Now and then but I know I'm not you so I can accept he's grumpy."  Xander slid past him, sitting down again.  "This looks really great, guys."

"Xander did the meat and asparagus," Eric told him.  "I've never had that."

"Came out of a college cookbook," Xander said with a grin.  "Meant to be fixed in a toaster oven."  He grinned at that.  "Ooh, I got stuff for veggie snacks."

"We'll be here most of the night, we can have it later," Alexx promised.  Xander smiled and finished his dinner.  "Horatio, why don't you get some more?"

"I'm letting it settle to see if I have more room," he said, smiling at Xander.  "Plus room for pie."

"I didn't stop to get any ice cream," she admitted.

"He bought ice cream sandwiches.  We can improvise," Horatio told her.  "He drug me around the grocery store twice, Alexx."

"Good!  You needed the food!"  She patted him on the cheek. "Give me a minute and I'll go cut the pie up."  She finished her plate, letting the others who were done follow her.  Ryan came last because he scarfed things down but he had been late so it was understandable.  They went back to the porch, sitting around getting to know Xander and talking about ways to help Horatio when necessary.  It was an excellent night.


Dawn finished stripping the chicken of meat, smiling when Ducky came in.  "Hi.  Which one are you?"

"I was out when you came in earlier.  I'm Ducky."

"I'm Dawn."  She shook his hand.  "Go clean up.  All I have to do is mix the chicken into the rice."  He nodded, walking off with a smile.  "Are we eating in here?  If so, someone needs to set the table for me," she called.  Tony came in to do that.  "Hi."

"Hi."  He grinned, looking over her shoulder.  "Mixing it into the rice?"

"Yeah, that way it's all in there.  Plus I did a few side dishes."  He nodded, putting down what they'd need.  "Is that enough?"

"Me, you, Gibbs, Abby, Ducky, McGee," he agreed, counting.  She smiled at him.  "If someone else shows up, he's got two plates left."  He grinned, helping her get drinks.  "FOOD!" he called.  The others washed their hands and came in.  Jethro helped Dawn into her chair next to Tony, who grinned at her.  McGee came in late but he cleaned up and came right to the table.  "Why were you late?" Tony asked.

"The director wanted to know what was going on.  I told her a welcoming dinner for Dawn."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Ziva's pouting, boss."

"Turnabout and all that," Tony told him simply.

"Besides, she's scared of me," Dawn told him, shrugging a bit.  "I don't know why.  I'm perfectly nice until you threaten me."  Abby giggled at that.  "I am.  Xander taught me well."  She said her own grace then dug in.  "Eat, people.  I like to cook."  They dug in after saying their own grace, those who did.  Halfway through dinner someone knocked.  "Jethro, it looks like the cranky one," she said quietly.

"I'll get it," he agreed, going to let the director in.  "Jen."

"A team dinner?" she asked.   He nodded.  "No Ziva?"

"She and Ziva haven't gotten along yet.  I didn't want to force either one into hissing."

"I'm sure Miss Summers is more couth than that."

Dawn leaned so she could look down the hallway.  "Until I'm threatened and then I turn into the biggest bitch on the block," she agreed.  She sat up again, going back to eating.  She grinned at Tony.  "So, he said your suit was supposed to be smart today.  How many IQ points does it add and does it come with a video game too?"

Tony choked but McGee howled in laughter, leaning on Abby.  "I meant to look hot," Tony told her once he could breathe again.

"Needed tailoring to take best advantage of your assets and a little bit darker to bring your eyes out."  Tony gave her a look.  "I'm a teenage girl, Tony, of course I know fashion."

He smiled at that.  "Of course you do.  Next time I have to shop I'll bring you and Abby."

"Okay.  Hey, Jethro, Willow accidentally packed Buffy's leather pants."

"Not unless you're right with me and I'm armed," he called back.  "Not on dates, not around the house, Dawn."

"Okay, that's what I planned anyway."  She shrugged, nudging Tony and handing him something.  "Apples."

"Thank you."  He dished up some, tasting it with a moan.  "Oh, that's a Blair recipe."  She smiled and nodded. "That's good."

"Thank you.  Xander used to work fast food and at a country club as a waiter, plus a hibachi place so he understood Food Network when he watched it.  I'm just starting to learn how to cook."

"You did an excellent job," McGee told her.  Abby nodded since her mouth was full.   "Are you making him lunch too?  That way we can distract him and snatch parts?"

"Fat chance, McGee," Jethro said as he came back in with the director behind him.  "Do we have a spare plate?"

"Yeah, in the usual cupboard.  I didn't move anything," she agreed, smiling.  "I hope you don't have any food allergies, director?"  She shook her head, pulling over a chair to sit on Jethro's free side.  "Good.  Here, have some apples."

"They are *so* good," Tony agreed.  "Them and the chicken and rice are both great."

"This is too fancy for me usually," Jethro admitted.

Dawn pinched him.  "It's a special occasion, Jethro.  Usually I'll make things like hamburger helper."  He smiled and nodded.  "Good.  Now, McGee mentioned lunches.  Do I have to make you lunch since you'll be heading to work and I won't be heading to school for at least a few days?"

"No, I'm good with that.  Half the time I'm not in the office."  He ate a bite of the rice.  This was good.  He hoped there were leftovers.

"Okay, then I'll plan on a good dinner.  I can't do breakfast.  I'm a zombie in the mornings."

"Do we have to take a potion to cure that?" Abby teased.

"Not yet but Mom used to joke that she was going to find one."  Tony gave her a light nudge, getting a sad smile.  "I've lost before, Tony, hers was just sudden."  She dug in again, looking at Jethro.  "Any word from Miami?"

"Not yet but I'm assuming they're doing the same thing."  She nodded  "Are you unpacked?"

"Fully.  Willow's a bit anal about how she packs so it's all undone."  He nodded at that.  "I promise I will keep all clothing messes to my own room."  He nodded, making her smile.  "Tony said I could help him shop next time."

"If he wants you to, I won't mind," he agreed.

"Ooh, me too," Abby agreed.  "She can help me.  I need a new dress for the Solstice Ball this year."

Dawn looked at her  "Is that like an adult version of the prom?"

"For goths," McGee said.  "She's to go looking like a vampire."

"The ones I know wear leather."

"Not quite that far," Tony told her.  "Velvet, that stuff."

"Oh, Dru clothes.  I can do that."  She smiled.  "I'll look online to see where we can go and what's available."  Abby smiled and nodded. "And maybe write Spike to see what he thinks is appropriate.  He's kinda like that."

"Is he a goth too?" the director asked.

"Yeah, a friend, sort of, of my sister.  He watched me a few times while we complained I didn't need a babysitter.  He's from London."

"Interesting."  She ate another delicate bite.  "This is good, Dawn."

"Thank you."

"Saffron in the rice?"

"Candied ginger and orange zest."


"I got the recipe off Blair, a friend who was helping Xander after a parking garage fell on him."  She looked confused.

"Xander is her other guardian," Tony told her.  "He was in Cascade in the parking garage at that mall when it got knocked down.  That's how Xander met Blair, so Dawn met Blair, who created the recipes for everything we're eating tonight."

"Interesting how those things work out now and then."  She ate another bite.  Dawn's phone chirped.  Dawn looked at it and sent back another message, then put it up after turning it off.  "Sister?"

"No, not hardly," she said dryly.  "She's decided I'm not human."  Tony frowned at that.  "Long story.  Really, really long story.  That was Xander checking on me."

"How is he?" Abby asked.

"Okay, they're doing the same thing.  He made some meat roll up dish that he likes to make because it lets him pound out the frustration while he makes the meat flimsy."

Jethro mouthed that, then shook his head.  "Definitely too fancy for anything but holidays."

"I know, I'm more a hamburger helper sort at the moment.  Remember, I'm still learning how to cook."

"You did a great job tonight," he assured her.  She beamed at that.  "Why did you change back?"

"Hello, company," she said, waving a hand around.   "Sweats are good for around the house and working out but not with company."  He shrugged and dug in again.  She smiled at Abby.  "What color do you want to wear to the ball?"

"I'm not a color sort.  I let the dress pick me by being so stunning others glare at me for causing suntans."

She beamed.  "Good way to put it.  I can look."  She nodded, digging in again.  "Anyone want seconds on the apple dish?  There's some on the stove."  Tony got up to get it, making her smile.  "Mom and I made that.  It's from Grandma's recipes.  Blair's adds more honey to his and some more cinnamon but I'm not sure which way I like it better yet."  Jethro gave her a pat.  "I'll be okay.  Mommy raised strong women, even if my sister is using hers to date a thug bastard who likes to taser helpless beings to get off."  She stuffed her mouth again.  "Mommy raised me better than that."

"She did," Jethro agreed.  "Didn't need to hear that though."

Tony looked over at Dawn.  "Does the CID guy in your town know that?"

"Yeah, Phelps is pretty cool," Dawn said, grinning at him.  "He *listened*.  It's a miracle.  He even put up with Willow babble for over an hour.  That's more than Xander can take without a nap."

"He did that to Blair too," Jethro reminded her.

"Well, yeah, he did kinda babble a bit like Willow without the bruising him stuff, but that's okay because Xander had a parking garage fall on him in like some demented Wizard of Oz moment.  Though that analogy doesn't really work since he's not the bad witch, that's Willow."  She frowned.  "I'll have to work on that one and tell him."  Something thumped in the living room and she got up to look, finding the tv and another two boxes.  "Whoo- hoo!  The tv's here!"

Tony came out to look.  "That's a nice one."

"Xander's."  She grinned.  "Giles let me snatch it for a while so I could talk Jethro into cable."  She gave him a hug.  "It'll be okay.  I'll be fine."  She leaned closer.  "Does she usually stare at girls my age or is it any girls?"

Tony coughed, shaking his head.  "Neither that I'm aware of.  Calm down."  He walked her back in there.  "The rest of her stuff, Gibbs."

"I heard the happy noises," he agreed.  "They'll be here in two days, Dawn."  She hugged him around the throat.  "Sit and finish eating. You're still too thin and only slimy men will want you."

She sat down again.  "If you say so.  I know I can't get fat."

"You can take up jogging with me."

"That'll do major things for my calves," she admitted.  "I'll try."  He smiled at that.  "How many yards do you do?"

"Ten miles."

"Okay, I'm not starting there, right?" she asked.  He shook his head.  "Good."  She dug in again, eating daintily.  Willow walked out of the living room.  "Hi."

"Hi.  What are you doing here?"

"Remember, Xander told you I was staying with Jethro, him, until he got settled?" she prompted.

"Oh.  Okay."  She looked at the table, grimacing.  "Take out?"

"I cooked, thank you," Dawn said more firmly.  Willow snorted.  "Did you take your evil pills again?  Because you know, happy moments.  This is Jethro's team and his boss."

She looked at Jethro.  "You're not going to hit on the Dawnie, right?"

"I don't like them that young and I only like redheads," he said grimly.  "As my three ex- wives point to."

"Oh."  She grimaced.  "Whatever."

"Willow, shoo," Dawn said.  "You're interrupting dinner and not for happy reasons.  If I needed more glaring I'd let his buddy Fornell stare any future zits off again."  Willow snorted again, crossing her arms over her chest.  "'Scuse me.  Have to talk to her in private."  She got up, walking her back to the living room.  "Your damage this time is what?"

"Buffy said you took stuff."

"Mom left it to me.  Since she knew allll about me and all that stuff, and she still did it, Buffy can climb out of Riley's ass since he probably made Mom sick.  They gave me to Mom, Willow.  Bite me.  If Buffy doesn't like it, she can have Giles interpret the will.  I know he knows how to read."

"You know very well...."

"I also know what they said and they said I was her sister.  Made of her," she hissed.  "Now, get over it."  Willow stepped back.  "I will not have your crap poisoning Jethro against Xander and I.  I will not let you hurt him.  If you try I will forget my promise to my mother not to use the skills I hold," she finished in a whisper.  "Am.  I.  Clear?"  Willow sneered.  "Good.  Then go home.  This is the wrong coast for you.  Xander was called to a different service."

"Where is he?"

"He just checked in.  He said he's having dinner too.  When the garage hit him and nearly killed him he found a friend who works in a better construction area.  He's looking down there for when he gets his cast off.  Now, anything else?"  Willow shook her head, holding up a hand to show the bracelet in it.  "That's not Buffy's.  That's mine.  Dad bought that for me."  She snatched it.  "She can crawl back up Riley's ass.  I'm sure he'd like it.  Or maybe he'll do it to her, she could use laid."  Willow disappeared.  Dawn stomped into the kitchen, grabbing some stuff, then heading upstairs.  "I'm stopping the Willow issue, stay in there."  She started in the front room, gradually working her way around the room until it would keep Willow out.  Then she did her room and then the hallway.  She came back, putting the bowl she had been mixing in on the counter.  "Sorry about her.  She's stupid, shallow, and thinks she knows everything.  She and my sister are twats together, it's like a private sorority in their dorm room."  She sat down again, taking a deep breath.  "I'm very sorry you had to witness her shit.  Please don't let it ruin dinner."  Jethro tapped her on the cheek. "I won't swear as much in the future."

"Not the issue.  You okay?"

"Hell no," she said, looking at him.  "I'm pissed.  I'm so pissed that I'm about to do something stupid that my mother would scream at me for.  Unfortunately it might hit Willow's girlfriend, who I love like a sister, and not hit my actual sister.  So therefore I'm going to calm myself down and plan my vengeance more precisely."  He patted her on the hand.  Abby got up to give her a hug.  "Thank you, Abby," she said quietly, clinging to her.  "Mommy would not approve if I stomped on her like a bug."

"Come on, we'll talk upstairs.  It'll help."  She walked her up there, taking her to her room with the new stuff.  All but the tv.  It needed to be in the living room.  Dawn sank into her arms again, letting it go for now.  "Shh, we've got you.  They can't hurt you."  Dawn nodded, handing over the bracelet.  "Your mother's?

"Dad gave it to me."

"Oh.  Where is he?"  She shrugged.  "That happens sometimes.  We'll handle it if he does show up."  She went back to comforting her.  Dawn told her everything, making her hiss in a few places, but nod in others.  "Does he know?"  She nodded.  "Good girl."  She wiped her cheeks off.  "It'll be okay.  I promise it will be.  Now, let's go have dessert, okay?  It always makes me feel better."

"I didn't make dessert.  But we got ice cream."

"Even better."  She smiled at her.  "It's not your fault and your sister is being a big meany.  She should be swatted, but not by you."

"Can I tell Xander?"

"That's even more bad, Dawnie."

She shrugged.  "I know.  I don't care but I know."  Abby gave her a look.  "I know.  I'll let Jethro help me plan my revenge."  She smiled and nodded, leading her back downstairs.  "Sorry. Had to tell her why Willow was such a pain in the butt.  Is everyone ready for ice cream?"

"Let me, Dawn," Tony offered.

She swatted at him.  "Sit and shut up, Tony.  Tonight was my turn to cook.  You can make bowls of ice cream when it's yours."  He grinned at that, sitting down again.  She got out bowls, spoons, and the ice cream, not finding a scooper.  "Jethro, no ice cream scoop?"

"Use the big, thick spoon," he said, leaning back to get it out for her.  "This."  He saw the bracelet Abby had put on her.  "Your Mom's?" he asked quietly.

"Dad gave it to me."

He gave her another pat.  "We'll handle it."  She nodded, dishing up the ice cream.  It was hard work too.  The ice cream was very solid.  Tony got up to help her, making her sit down.  "Thanks, DiNozzo."

"You make a very good ice cream saving knight," Dawn teased.  He grinned, handing her the first bowl with a wink.  The others got theirs and he sat down too.  "Anything leftover he gets for lunch tomorrow.  If he won't be in the office I'll expect them to be eaten when you get back."

Jethro snickered. "It'll probably be a midnight snack, Dawn."

"I thought that's what triscuits were for."

"For some.  I'll make sure they're cleaned up.  You eat your ice cream.  You're still too skinny."

"If I get too fat I'll never fit into my clothes.  Then I'll have to go naked to school.  They probably won't like that, though some boys might."

"At your age, all boys would, even the gay ones," Tony told her.  She giggled and pinched him.  "Really.  At that age, guys aren't that particular.  They'll get particular in a few years."

"She's fifteen, DiNozzo, even if she does look younger," Jethro told him, eating another bite of ice cream.  He got up to put the carton back, sitting down again. "That way we don't have the ice crystals in it."  Dawn smiled at him.  "It'll be fine."

"If you don't mind me asking, Dawn, what did your mother die of?" Ducky asked.

"A suddenly appearing brain tumor.  No warning, no headaches, nothing except one day she passed out and they found a walnut sized tumor."  She ate a bite while he frowned.  "Since there was a torturing sicko project out there we thought they might've gotten her, but the CID guy out there stopping them and going through their records said there's no formal mention of them doing it.  She died about a week after surgery."  She ate another bite.

Tony looked at her.  "I called the agent out there today, Dawn.  Just to update him.  He said thank you for the new information you provided and he was going to be most happy to look into that topic?"

"Buffy's dating one of their team leaders."

"Oooh," Abby said, shuddering.

"That's okay, Willow hacked them many times to see what they were doing.  They had to go in to get a friend.  Then they had to run them out of town a few weeks after that.  Did not make for happy Xanders.  At all.  Xander wanted to blow the base up but Giles wouldn't let him and Buffy said it wasn't right.  So instead on the way out he released most everything they had in pens.  He said it was grody but satisfying."

"It can be," Jethro admitted.  "DiNozzo, I need briefed on that in case they come for her here."  Tony pulled a DVD out of his jacket pocket and tossed it over.  "All of it?"

"Yeah, all the information he's collected, boss.  He was not a happy camper by any means but he said you'd protect her.  That she's very special and should be protected.  He's hoping to find the major links back into the Pentagon."

"NSA," Dawn told him.  "The original person was Doctor Walsh."  She looked at him.  "I had to do a lot of eavesdropping to find out anything that was going on."

Tony laughed but McGee nodded.  "My sister did too."  He looked around.  "Want help cleaning up and doing dishes, Dawn?"

"If you want.  I'm always happy to let someone else get pruny hands."  He smiled and nodded, starting to clear the table.  The others finished up and helped too, all but the Director, who left at the first sign of work.  Dawn looked at her sentinel.  "Can't I smack her?"

"Not yet."


"When it gets unbearable."

"So, later tonight?"

He looked at her.  "Give it a few weeks, you'll hate her more," Abby offered with a sweet smile.  "I am going to smack her at her next declaration, Gibbs.  I don't care."

"I know.  She's working those things out."

"If she'd leave things that're working alone she wouldn't have these problems," Ducky pointed out.  "The problem is that she won't."

"She's pushing her power to make sure everyone knows she has it," Tony agreed.  "It's her way of controlling things and being seen as being able to play in the leagues with the bigger dogs."

Dawn looked at him.  "Can I call Angel and have him eat her?  Or Spike?"

"No," Jethro told her.  He shook his head.  "Sorry, Dawn, can't allow that."

"Yeah, they might give it to the bossman," Abby agreed.  Jethro shuddered.  "If they did, Tony would have to do a lot of paperwork, so would McGee."

"Probably true," Jethro agreed.  "You good?"

"I'm good but I told her," she whispered.  He nodded at that.  "I'll be okay.  I really will.  Even if she does go trolling for my father.  Not that he'll listen to her.  He didn't listen to the lawyer or anything.  Or Giles, or anyone Giles sent after him."  Tony ruffled her hair.  "HEY!  Don't undo the do!"  She straightened it out again, shaking her head.  "No respect for the sacred things, Tony."

"Hairdos are sacred?" McGee asked.

"I'm fifteen, of course they are," she told him.

Abby nodded. "That'd be like messing up my pigtails."  Both guys shuddered.  "It's a girl thing, you guys wouldn't understand."

"That's right, there's very few times a woman's hair should be mussed.  Since I'm not having sex, not in a hurricane, and not trying for messy post-sex bedhair to be seductive, it needs to stay straight," Dawn agreed.  Jethro looked at her.  "When else is it supposed to be messed up?" she asked when he shook his head.

"Those aren't thoughts I want to have, Dawn."

"Sorry.  It's the age I am.  I've got to start thinking about dating and stuff."

"You have time," Tony told her firmly.  "Let yourself settle in first."

Ducky coughed and nodded.  "I loathe to interrupt the biological imperative that's hardwired into each of us to propagate the species further but Anthony is correct.  Now is not the time for that yet, young lady.  We wouldn't want to make Jethro deal with a young suitor doing foolish things to get your attention."

"I thought I was supposed to get their attention."  She looked at Abby, looking confused. "I'm not allowed to lure?"

"You are allowed to lure, Ducky's old fashioned.  These days, boys are too stupid to realize they've got a chance without some significant signs."

Jethro held up a hand.  "No more.  Save this talk for girl time, Abs.  Please."

"Okay, Gibbs."  She gave them both a hug.  "I should get back to my coffin."  She winked at Dawn.  "Maybe we can set each other up?"

"If I can find Spike and bring him here I'll see if he'll go out with you.  That way you can say you dated a real vampire stud."

"That would be cool.  And hey, older than me, right?"

"About a hundred and twenty."

"Then way older than me and I like older guys."  She kissed her on the cheek.  "You have a better night."  She bounced off, taking McGee with her, who waved and smiled.

"They are so cute," Dawn sighed.

"They were when they were dating too," Tony admitted, handing her the dish towel. "Your turn, you dry."  She nodded, taking his place to put things up.  Jethro had to switch around the glasses but she now knew what order they went in.  Ducky made his excuses a few minutes later, leaving them alone.  "So what big secret is this one?"

Dawn looked at Jethro, who looked at him.  "Sweep for bugs, DiNozzo."  He nodded, going to do that.  Dawn got the book Tara had stolen from Giles for her, handing it to him when he was done.  Tony frowned. "Read."

Tony sat at the table to read it, frowning at it.  He looked at Dawn, who pointed at herself.  "You?"

"Me.  They made me of Buffy to protect me.  So she is my sister and I'm still human and she's still a cunt."

"Language," Tony said.  "Good boys do not date girls who swear."  She nodded, going back to her tasks.  He went back to reading, leaning the book on the table while he did it.  "Wow."

"Very wow, and Willow nearly made me let all that loose on her earlier."

"Not in the house," Gibbs ordered.  "Finish making it so she can't get in here."

"Yes, Jethro."  She took her bowl to do that.

He looked at Tony.  "She's a normal girl now."

"Of course she is.  One with more sense than the little creatures I see at the mall all the time."  He went back to his reading.  "This is really interesting."

"Not really," Dawn admitted.  "It's a boring book.  I keep falling asleep when I read it."

"Maybe you shouldn't know part of it."

"No, Giles explains stuff from it when I ask but he tries not to be that dry and boring.  That one was written by monks.  No social life to keep their flames of fun alive in their souls."  She got back to work.

"Why were you transferred?" Tony asked.

"Go about five pages over to the pink ribbon.  Xander found another way to block her so I'm safe.  Thankfully."  Tony did that, letting her go work on the upstairs hallway.  Then the downstairs.  She was not leaving a crack of this house non-Willow-proof.

Tony read then looked at his boss.  "She can't come back, right?"

"Harris said no and I asked that Giles guy when I met him.  Willow sent him to Cascade for a few minutes to talk to Dawn about something.  He said no."

"Good.  That'd be one messy fight.  Not like we have the Ghostbusters here to work it either."  He closed the book, giving Dawn a hug when she walked past him.  "You're still a girl to me."

She grinned. "Of course I am.  A nice, normal teenager."  He nodded.  "Because I can't use it most of the time without being hellishly pissed at Willow."

"Good."  He stood up, kissing her on the forehead.  "Welcome to DC.  We'll work on Jethro's stuff this weekend."

"Okay."  She beamed.  "You have a good night."

"I will.  Boss, run that DVD soon.  I'm sure she can explain it to you."  He walked off much happier.  Dawn was the most special person on the face of the earth.

Jethro looked at her.  "Can I borrow your laptop?"

"Only if you don't break it.  McGee warned me about you and technology, especially PDA's."

"I won't."  She nodded, going to get it for him, then she went to do the attic.  He shook his head, sitting at the table to read over the information.  There was a lot there and the information they had showed a program he would've wanted stopped too.  Very, very sickening.  Xander's grody was about right.


A few weeks later Xander walked into Horatio's work with a takeout bag.  "Hi, Horatio asked that I bring him food."  The receptionist paged him, making him give a sheepish grin.  "So, how has work been recently around here?"

"Pretty standard.  A few dead bodies, some robberies, someone who tried to shoot at Lieutenant Caine for fun.  The usual."   Horatio came out.  "Your lunch order, sir."

"Thank you.  Xander, come on."  He took the visitor's pass, letting him sign in.  Then he took him up to his office.  "No one's shot at me for weeks."

"I'd believe that but I do the laundry," Xander said dryly, giving him a look.  He got a small smile back.  "At least it wasn't your skin, just your jacket that got hit.  The hole was easily mended by the cleaners."  He closed the door and came over, walking behind him.  "Sit.  You look stressed."  Horatio nodded, sitting down and eating his lunch.  He was getting used to eating a lot again.  He'd even put up with the weight gain for a while.  The shoulder rub he got was a bonus and it made his senses quit jumping around.  "Which one?"

"Sight and hearing again," he admitted quietly.  "How was the construction site?"

"Crappy and the boss doesn't like to pay people correctly so I quit.  I can get a better job."  He got back to work on his shoulders.  Horatio suddenly moaned and gagged so Xander pressed on a spot on his neck, making his taste back down.  "Sorry."

"Not your fault.  Mustard."

"I told them to hold it.  I'll yell."

"I can do that."  He patted the hand on his shoulder.  "It'll be fine.  I can scrape it off."  He did that and then went back to eating.  Xander's shoulder rub was making everything reset and calm down, even his headache.  The magical fingers moved up to do the back of his neck.  "That's nice."

"Anytime.  All you have to do is ask."  He ruffled his hair, walking over to sit in his chair with a grin.  "Now, how are we going to work on this thing while you're at work?  We've proven that you do have problems while I'm not there and Eric and the others aren't as effective as they used to be since I'm here."

"I don't know."  He called Eric, bringing him up.  "We need suggestions."

"Short of calling him while you're working?"

"That is an option," Horatio admitted.

"You should have called earlier," Xander pointed out.

"You were working."

"Now I'm not."

"Point."  He handed Eric a file.  "Typos."



"They happen, H."  He looked at it, seeing the pen marks.  "Yeah, I did mistype."  He put it under his arm.  "Calling or having him there, H.  We've got to figure out how to do that."

"Calling seems to work for most things," Xander admitted.  "Since we can't find a reason for me to be at the scenes it may be the only way.   Unless it's another high stress kidnaping or something like that.  That'll probably require me to be there somehow."

"We'll work on it.  Maybe a wireless headset or like the Feds use?"

"An earwhig?" Xander asked, frowning.  "We'd have to be on a pretty select frequency and he'd have to be able to hide it.  If anyone asks he'd have to say it was for some sort of experimental technology or something.  With all the brain power among you guys we'll figure something out."  He went back to his shoulder rub, weathering the look from the man who stormed in.  "Do you mind, he's got a migraine."

"Who are you?" he sneered.

"His roomie at the moment.  I brought him something to calm his stomach down thanks to his migraine."  He let Horatio's shoulders go.  "Since I'm free this afternoon, what should I cook for dinner?"

"Are you together?" he sneered.

Xander turned around, grabbing him and slamming him against the glass wall, making him very scared when he got into his face.  "Horatio is *very* nice to let me camp on his couch while I'm looking for my own place.  He's also helping since I got given a friend's sister when her mother died because her sister went insane.  He is *helping* me and you are *irritating* me.  Considering I am a combat veteran and I have killed things that are bigger, badder, meaner, and more intelligent than you, I'd leave off now," he finished in a growl.  "Am I clear?"  The guy nodded.

"Xander," Eric warned, giving Horatio a look.

"Let him go, Xander," Horatio agreed.  He let him go slowly, still glaring at him. "Xander is my assistant, Rick.  He's helping me around the house since I'm never home.  He's doing some minor home improvement work there for me as well.  Since a parking garage recently fell on him I'm helping him get back on his feet in a new city."  He finished his lunch.  "Do we like this spot?"

"I do.  It's an ethnic deli.  It's a good, cheapish place.  It was near the site."  He looked at him.  "Did you want to fuss because he has an assistant?  After all, not like he doesn't need a bodyguard with boys like you who fire at him."  He sniffed.  "By the way, why do you smell like TNT?"  He backed out, heading off at a run.  "Have a nice day," he called happily, waving even.  Calleigh gave him a horrified look so he grinned sweetly at her.  "What?"  He looked at Horatio.  "Dinner?"

"Whatever you feel like cooking."

"Cooking is therapeutic for me, Horatio.  Not like it matters what I cook.  Name something."

"Baked chicken and rice?"

"Okay.  Plain rice or fancy rice?"  Eric grinned.  "What!  I like to cook at home.  I couldn't do it for real, it's too much stress, but I can do it at home.  Fancy rice, scented or flavored rice?  Cinnamon, garlic, orange rice?"

"Orange rice would be nice.  I liked that," Horatio said gently.  Xander beamed and nodded, heading out.  He looked at Eric.  "He's sorry."

"No he wasn't.  Neither are you, H."  He grinned more brightly.  "Anyway, that's probably the best cover yet for your bodyguard.  You could use one."  He walked out smiling.  "He slammed Stetler against a window," he said in Calleigh's ear before walking around her.  "Threatened him too."

"Oooh, that poor boy's going to be hell in lockup."

"Nope," Eric said, smirking at her.  "Hey, Wolfe?"  He came out of his lab.  "Did you get anything from the sand?"

"A headache from the small grain size and a few beaches to check."

"That's a help," he decided, following him in there.

Calleigh walked up to the office.  "Where did he get you lunch from?"  He held up the bag.  "I like that place.  They're good."  She smiled at him.  "He did what?"

"Rick asked him if we were together.  Xander slammed him against the window and got into his face about being my assistant."  He gave her a look.

She walked in and closed the door.  "Horatio, the boy wasn't insulted by the question, just that it was asked about you.  Remember, he's here to protect you too," she said gently.  He frowned.  "Ah, you didn't read the background check."  She went to get it, bringing it back.  She found Stetler back in there.  "Hi."  She handed it over.  "The history you wanted done."  She winked and walked out, closing the door behind her but lurking conveniently close by.

Horatio leaned back, reading it.  "You did upset him horribly, Rick.  I'll go home to some sugary confection for dessert.  Before you ask, he was upset that you were threatening me.  Xander is one of the most protective people in the world.  He has been for years now."  He glanced at him.  "Anything else?"  This background was actually very enlightening and somewhat horrifying, plus a bit fascinating in areas.  They were a lot more alike than it appeared on the surface.

"Who is he?"

"He's been doing things around the house.  The porch had a loose railing, there's been a small leak on the roof, plus he's cleaned, done the laundry, cooked most every single meal for me.  He's been making sure I'm safe."

"He's dangerous."

"Not to me.  Only to those who would hurt others."  He gave him a pointed look.  "Apparently he thought you were threatening me."  Their boss came in and he stood up.  "Sir."

"Horatio.  What happened?"

"The young man was insulted on my behalf when Rick asked my helper if we were together.  So he decided to tell him exactly what was going on."

"With him pressed against one of your windows?"

"Xander is a recent combat veteran and one of the most protective people in the world.  I'm helping him get back on his feet down here.  He's recently left his hometown when a friend died and he inherited her daughter.  She's in DC with a mutual friend since he's on my couch."

"I see.  Your assistant?"

"He does cook, clean, fix things around the house.  Brings me lunch, he helped me proofread a paper I was thinking of submitting the other day," he admitted.

"What branch did he serve in?" Rick sneered.

Horatio looked at him then at his boss.  He handed over the background to his boss.  "Calleigh ran it for me."  He sat down to read it then looked at him.  Horatio stared back.  "He also realized that I got shot the other day by the new hole in one of my jackets.  He's in hyper-protective mode.  Rick's question about whether we were together or not upset him on *my* behalf because he knows how institutional bias can be, sir."

"Interesting.  Rick, you're to leave the young man alone.  We've known for years Horatio needed a bodyguard.  Otherwise he gets in the way of snipers and bombers and those sort."  Rick stomped off.  He handed it back.  "Well."  Horatio smiled.  "I've noticed some things and I'm more than smart enough to look up where you go on those weekends you request off, and where you went that week, Horatio," he said quietly.  Horatio tipped his head in acknowledgment.  "I'm figuring he has something to do with that.  I'm also figuring he's the reason you suddenly look healthy again."

"He is focused on making me eat, sir."


Horatio sat down, looking at him.  "What did you want me to say?" he asked quietly.

"I read some things by Doctor Sandburg."  Horatio swallowed.  "I've also seen you work, way back in Bomb Squad, Horatio.  I know very well what you were and why.  I'm not sure when they started since it mentioned deprivation and those things."

"I've always had them.  Ray used to help me with them," he admitted quietly.  "They've never turned off."  His boss nodded.  "You would be right that Xander is the present cure to that problem."

"Good.  You could use one.  Like I said, much healthier."  He looked him over.  "Did he freak out?"

"With his background?  He asked if it was a bullet or something else," he admitted with a small smirk.  "He is very protective of me."

"Someone needs to be."  He stared at him for a minute.  "I was serious earlier.  You do need an assistant.  Your paperwork is never done on time.  Your budget figures weren't on the proper forms.  And frankly, Horatio, you're the slow cog here.  If I give you an assistant for real, would it help?"

"It could very well, sir."

"Good.  Then I'll figure out where to put him."

"I've got a small accessory desk I can put in a corner in here."

"Or in a closet, somewhere.  Figure it out and tell me."  He stood up.  "Good luck with that.  Rick said he was rabid and snarling."

"Nearly.  He's getting over some personal traumas.  His friends are people I would not save."

"That's saying something," he agreed.  "His child?"

"Dawn?  She's in DC with a friend at NCIS."

"Poor Jethro."  He walked off shaking his head.  He loved leaving Horatio with that confused look he was giving him.  He went to talk to the young man himself, finding him shirtless in the kitchen.  "Mr. Harris?"  He 'eeped' and put on a shirt.  "It's a crime not to enjoy the sunlight down here, son.  If Horatio doesn't mind I don't."  Xander gave him a look.  "I'm Chief Johnson."  Xander nodded politely.  "Mute?"

"No, sir, waiting on you to chew me a new one for getting in what's-his-name's face for insulting Horatio," he admitted quietly.  "Come into the kitchen?"  He nodded, following him.  "Thank you.  Cooking is my stress relief."

"I noticed Horatio had finally put on weight, son."  He watched him for a few minutes.  "How much do you know about the trouble Horatio gets into, Mr. Harris?"  Xander let out a bitter sounding snort.  "So you've heard?"

"From others."  He looked at him.  "The whole team agreed he needed a bodyguard sometimes, or someone to follow him stupidly in to do the heroic stuff.  Because stupid and heroic are sometimes synonyms."

"Very true," he agreed.  He watched him cook.  "What caused that scar on your shoulder?"

"Which one?"

"The long, jagged one?"

"Um..."  He looked then in the shiny front of the fridge.  "The one on the left?  A big claw.  Hurt like hell too."  He shrugged and got back to mincing stuff to put in with the rice in the cooker.  He finally got that done and pulled out the chicken, letting it sit under the running water for a minute.  "You know," he said bluntly.

"I'm smart enough to do some research a few years back and notice some things.  He's not the only one we have.  The other is in SWAT.  That's why we moved Horatio to the Bomb Squad."  Xander sat down, nodding slightly.  "You do know he pays for the water?"

"Actually, I'm paying this month's because I took a four hour bath when I got down here.  He's got the *best* tub."

The Chief smiled at that.  "Even men should have their pleasures," he agreed.  "He does need an assistant.  He's never getting paperwork in on time."

"I've played secretary before but I'll need a dictionary for some of the words they use in the lab."

"I'm sure he has one somewhere or Speedle can make you one," he agreed.  Xander smiled at that.  "That would suit you?"

"I quit a job today because the old boss decided to somehow deduct an extra fifty bucks from my pay for so-called site expenses."

"Then you can start soon?"

"As soon as he wants me to and as long as he's agreed."

"Good."  He stood up.  "I've left it to him to arrange.  You'll want to wear a shirt in the office.  Otherwise Doctor Woods will fuss over those scars, son."

"That's why I hid them the night we had the team dinner, sir."  He smiled at that.  "Also, the other guy has a guide, right?"  He nodded. "Good.  Where's yours?"  He looked stunned.  "According to the guy who trained me one calls to another, sir."

"Good point, son.  Very good point.  Just leave Stetler alone."

"I had to wash my hands for quite a while, sir.  He smelled like TNT."

"You'll get on very well with Horatio I'm sure."  He walked out, letting the boy get the door behind him.  It was a good thing and hopefully it would mean improved efficiency in the lab.  Horatio really did muck up the paperwork sometimes.  It might even cut down on some of his personal overtime since he wouldn't have to redo the forms he sent in wrong.

Xander got up and washed his hands again, getting back to working on the chicken.  When he was done he seasoned it and put it into the roasting pan, sticking it into the oven.  Then he went to see if he could download a forensics dictionary.  He'd really need it.


Xander looked at his guide/guardian while she walked him through all the Human Resources paperwork.  "Are you the one who'll tell me which papers get filled out which way?"

"We have a set of manuals for those, Xander," she said with perky efficiency.  He nodded, getting back to work.  He handed over the last one.  "You don't want to sign up for the 401k?"

"Not at this time.  Let me wait a year."  She nodded.  "Right now I've got to work on getting a new place and all those good, expensive young guy things."  She giggled and walked out to file them.  She brought back one, making him refill it out.  "Sorry."

"It's all right but we can't have any crossing out."  He handed it over when he was done.  "Thank you."  She handed that off then brought in the manuals.  "Now, you'll be doing what job?"

"Assistant to Horatio Caine at the lab.  I was specifically asked to do a lot of the paperwork."

"Good!  As a lab head he's got some specific paperwork to do but these are the instruction manuals for most of them."  She put down four very thick binders.  "Also there's a dress code manual."  She put down a thin booklet.  "And a fairly comprehensive phone book."  She put that down too.  "Now, is there anything else?"

He looked at her.  "As part of my job I was told I could carry a gun since people like to shoot at my boss.  Where do I go to file and transfer my permit from California?"  She blinked at him.  "Also, do you have the packets on the health insurance information so I can look it over and talk to the doctors I'm thinking about so I can make an informed choice before it's time?"  She nodded at that one, getting the pamphlets.  "Thank you.  The first?"

"Um, firearms license?  I don't know.  Let me check."   She went to check with her boss, coming back with an address.  "The HR head wasn't sure it was going to be necessary but you'd have to go here."  She put it down in front of him, getting a smile.  "Now, anything else?"

"Two things.  Do we know where my office is yet?"  She shook her head.  "Okay.  Do I talk to you guys or Horatio about the crappy coffee I'm supposed to be making?"

"Him.  That's part of a section head's decisions."

"Fair enough.  Thank you."  He gathered them up, putting them under one arm, shaking her hand.  "Thank you for walking me through that.  I'll call if I have any questions with the various forms."  She smiled at that.  "Walk me out?"

"After you get your ID badge.  Must happen."

He nodded, following her out, the address in his front pocket.  He paused to get his picture taken, then took his still-warm ID badge off.  The other office was up the hall so he stopped there first, putting down the manuals.  The girls in there gave him a set of grins.  "I'm Horatio Caine's new assistant Xander.  I was told to come here to get my firearm license switched?"  They nodded, taking his old one to start the paperwork.  "Is there a preferred method of keeping one in the office?  Drawer, holster under the drawer, on me?"

"I would hide it," one suggested.  "I'm not sure you'd be allowed."

"People shoot at my boss.  We had a lab assault last month according to him.  He said I could."  They nodded, handing over the forms.  He filled those out, handing over the list from his wallet.  "Those are mine at home."  She smiled, taking those to put into the system.  He got an odd glance at one.  "I know.  It was me or them and I choose me that night.  I was lauded by the PD out there."  That got a nod and they made a note of it in the system.  He took his new temporary card and walked out with it and the manuals, heading to the lab.  He walked in with a smile for the usual receptionist.  "I'm not even delivering yet."  She laughed.  "Where did Horatio stick his lowly assistant?"

"Um, I think in 12b," she admitted.  "He's out on a call."  She checked the sheet then called someone.  "Officer Wolfe, Lieutenant Caine's assistant is here to drop off some of the paperwork manuals."  She smiled and hung up.  "He'll be right out, Xander.  I need you to sign in each and every time you come back."

"Even if I'm only off dropping off?"  She nodded. "I can do that."  He signed in, smiling when Ryan came out to meet him. "Hey.  I know I've got a corner somewhere."

"Closet," he admitted. "By ballistics even.  Near the firing pen."

"Not an issue.  I like weapons."  He walked after him, waving a bit.  He had to come back for the health insurance pamphlet but that was fine.  He found his desk was in a deep closet, which made him smirk.  He shrugged and settled things in there.  "Phone?"

"Coming today," Ryan admitted. "Maintenance had to install a jack."  He looked at the folders.  "There's more than that."

"This is the proper secretary-filled out stuff.  The other stuff I'll get off Horatio."  He put things down, including his gun that he had been hiding.  He slammed that drawer and locked it.  "There."  Ryan gave him an odd look.  "What?"

"Are you allowed to do that?"

"Horatio said I could stick one in the desk."  Someone walked in with a toolbelt on.  "Hey.  Is there a way we can remove half the shelves?"  The guy nodded?  "I can put them up if you want me to.  I've been doing construction recently."

"I can.  Want me to remove two, put them on the other side, then switch you around?"  Xander nodded.  "I can do that too.  I'm surprised you didn't get the spare office."

Ryan gave him a look.  "I thought that was the other supervisor's office."

"He left."

"They'll name another one," Xander said prosaically.  That got a laugh and they got out of his way.  "Thank you."

"Welcome.  Do you make decent coffee?"

"I make construction site coffee," he admitted.  The guy whimpered.  "Sorry."

"That's okay.  That can be good coffee.  I'll have to try yours."

"Go for it.  If they don't mind I'm in a spoiling mood most of the time."  The guy laughed at that, letting them go.  Xander made sure he had the health insurance pamphlets and his wallet and keys.  They walked back out together, running into Horatio coming in.  "Whenever you've got the time to let me pull those other paperwork manuals let me know, Horatio.  I'll drag them down so you don't have to deal with them."

"They're mostly online, Xander."

"And?  There's probably a manual somewhere, boss."  Horatio smiled at that.  "Chief Johnson said you were always behind and I was to fix that."  He gave him a pat on the arm.  "We'll figure that out.  Roast for dinner."  He walked off, heading out.  He signed out and headed home with a quick stop for more soda.

"You're letting him have a gun in his desk?" Ryan asked quietly.

Horatio looked at him for a moment.  "Let is a bit strong.  He thinks it's necessary.  He's proven he knows what to do with one.  It's that or a crossbow."  He walked up to his office, going to gather those manuals for him.  If Xander could do most of the paperwork, he'd kiss the boy and let him make another three-layer chocolate cake.  He'd even let him have some of it.


Xander came in the next day in really decent jeans and a better than average shirt, letting Horatio see and nod his approval.  "Sorry, not really any dress pants, boss."

"That's fine, Xander.  We can work on that as your paychecks come in."  Xander grinned and headed to his office, letting him see what had been done.  Xander smiled and settled in behind his desk with a soda next to the printer.  The first thing he did was pull out the practical examples of what each form should look like and put them in a binder of their own.  Then he logged into the system and got to work seeing what needed to be done.  Horatio brought down his backlogged paperwork.  "Can you fill those out?  I've made notes on the margins for the budget one."  Xander nodded, taking it to fill out.  "Let me see them when you're done.  Don't spill the soda or we'll never hear the end of it, and don't touch Eric's coffee-pot or he'll growl."

Xander grinned.  "I can make decent coffee."

"He says that's his job."  He walked off smiling.  Xander would come to him when he got stuck.  Three hours later Xander brought in a pile of completed forms for his approval.  He looked at them, only separating out two.  "This one I'm not sure is done right."

"That's what the manual said and I checked with Gretchen, who is my HR guardian.  She said so.  She said you've been filling it out like it was the old form for the past two years."  He shuddered.  "The other is the budget form?"

"Those are in thousands, Xander."

"Okay.  I can amend that."  He took it to work on again, bringing it back up.  "Like that?"  Horatio nodded, looking it over.  "You didn't leave any leeway for overtime?"

"The budget is that tight," he admitted.  He pointed at one number so Xander gave him the original.  He shook his head, whiting it out and fixing it upward, then the total.  Xander took it back to fix, adding an extra thousand for him.  That earned a smile.  "Thank you."  He signed off on things.  "Okay, most of those go to the Chief's secretary."

"I have a list of where they go in my special binder.  Do you prefer inter-office mail or personal delivery?"

"Inter-office mail is fine.  He's expecting those to get done a bit late."  Xander handed over a candy bar.  "I'm going to get fat."

"You eat it or I will."

Horatio considered what he knew about a happy, bouncy Xander on chocolate and gave him half.  "Is that closet working out for you?"

"It's a bit tight but as long as the door's open I'm good.  Anything else you want me to do today, boss?"

"Not yet."  Xander smiled, handing over a paper bag.  "Lunch?"

"You forgot it."  He walked out, going to mail those forms from the reception desk.  He heard the shocked gasp and looked over his shoulder.  "I told you I was his assistant."  He looked at one form, holding it up.  "Chief, HR, or purchasing?"

She looked.  "I'd say the Chief, just in case.  His secretary can reroute it, it's in the same building and she's probably used to it."  He nodded, stuffing that in there.  "You did keep copies?"

"I paused to make copies," he admitted with a grin.  "Not that I have a filing cabinet yet.  Or is that what the ones in Horatio's office are for?"  She nodded.  "Okay."  He filled out the 'where' portion and handed them over.  "Thank you, Gloria."

"You're welcome, Xander.  Do you make good coffee?"

"I was warned to leave Eric's coffeepot alone."  She laughed, shaking her head.  "Is he here?"  She shook her head again, smirking.  "Then I can make a pot."  He went to do that, then went back to his office to figure out what else he was supposed to do.  The filled out forms went into a manila folder that he marked with 'done' and the day's date, then he put it in his empty drawer.  He looked up when someone knocked.  "Enter, I am all-seeing and can help you."

Calleigh smiled at him.  "Can you help me proof a report, Xander?"

"If you find or give me a dictionary for all the mean and nasty forensic terms.  I couldn't find one online."

She beamed and went to get one for him, bringing it back.  "Thank you.  I don't know why but I sound like I'm writing a children's story in it."  She handed them both over.  "I'm in ballistics, which is right behind you."

He looked at her.  "Did you figure out why that rifle was muffled?"

"Yeah, someone tried to retread the barrel.  You know guns?"  He nodded, getting to work on her report.  "Huh.  What else do you know?"  He grinned and went on with his reading.  He pointed at something.  "No, that's spelled right."  He made a note on the notebook beside him.  "I don't know why."

"Many short sentences?  It does kinda read like _Dick and Jane_."  She nodded at that.  "Do you have to use such small, uncomplex statements?"

"I don't have to."  She took it back to look over.  "That may be it.  Ooh, and a typo.  Thank you."  She went to work on it again, letting him look through the forensic dictionary.  She came back and he gave it a quick proofread, circling two things with a pencil.  She sighed and looked.  "I thought that was correct."

"I was told it was correct if it sounded right in your head most of the time."

"Welll.....  I'll ask Horatio about that one."  He nodded, handing it back.  "What's the other one?"

"You spelled the name differently in that one."

"Ooh!"  She hit herself on the forehead, taking his whiteout to correct it, then she walked it up to Horatio, who had a clear desk.  He was even smiling at Stetler.  "Is that grammatically correct?  I thought it was and Xander didn't."

He looked.  "I think you're right but it sounds funny."

"So we're both right."  She took his whiteout, choosing another word that went better there.  "There you go.  I did get him the forensic dictionary."  She beamed.  "Now, what's next on his list of amazing feats?"

"I'm going to work in the lab and let whoever tell him if he did the forms right for me," he said smugly.  "Thank you, Calleigh."

"You're welcome."  She went back to ballistics, giving Xander a smile.  "I was right but he agreed with you so I changed the word."  He nodded, making a note of that.  "Stetler's around."

"I can slam him into a wall if he pisses me off again," he said sweetly, grinning at her.  She walked off laughing and he got back to his online form reading.  Gloria brought him the inter-office mail, letting him have the forms Horatio had done last time.  "Thanks."

"Welcome, Xander."  She smiled, going to hand off the other stuff.

Xander looked at the two envelopes, pulling out the first form.  He snickered at the mean comment on the front, pulling up a new copy and the manual's page to fill it out correctly.  Then the other one he walked up there.  "I do not know how to fill out supervisory oversight forms yet.  I can't find the manual online."  He handed over the other one and the one with the comment.  "Is that correct?"

Horatio looked then nodded with a small sigh.  "Thank you, Xander."

"Welcome, Horatio."  He let Horatio sign it then he sent it back in the same envelope to the last person who sent it.  He went back to his studying.  He was going to earn this paycheck, not just be here to support Horatio.  He wasn't a freeloader like that.  He was not Buffy.

Horatio looked over that form, calling the office that had sent it back.  "It's Horatio.  What was wrong with this form?"  He nodded, putting it onto another folder.  "That's fine.  I do have an assistant, his name is Xander.  He's in 12b and Gloria knows where he is.  Yes you can.  He's already cleared up my backlog and there's a lot of forms that went into inter- office mail today.  Gloria said if he wasn't sure he sent it to the Chief's secretary. That would be reasonable.  Thank you."  He hung up, smiling at Rick again.  "I much happier today.  Anything else?"

"Who approved of your new assistant?"

"Chief Johnson did after our talk yesterday.  He interviewed Xander himself."

"I see.  Is he in the budget?"

"I'm sure I'll get an amendment done rather quickly. I did put him in next month's."  Rick stomped off.  "Have a better day," he called, mimicking Xander.  "Now I know why Speed is sarcastic, it does feel good," he muttered as he got up to file that form.  The others Xander could be shown where to file.  He called down there.  "Did you remember to make yourself a lunch too?"  He smiled and hung up, getting into his lunch.  Xander brought up that folder.  "For the record, how many went to the Chief's secretary?"

"About half.  Some went to HR, a few went to other offices. I did photocopy everything and if you can show me where to file I can do that while you're on a scene, so I'm in here if you need to call."

"Thank you, Xander.  You've already proven your worth."  Xander gave him a brilliant smile for that.  "Have you called Speed?"

"Not today.  Why?"

"No one's seen him in a few days."

"Maybe he's actually using his vacation time," he offered.  He got a nod from his boss because that made sense.  "I made semi-decent coffee.  Eric's gone and the pot was dry and on."

"He won't mind as long as he can make the pots when he's here."  He called Speed, smiling at the grumpy answer, putting him on the speaker.  Xander got up to close the door.  "How are you feeling?"

"I'm bored, H, how do you think I'm feeling."

"You could be his assistant too," Xander offered. "You could share my closet and everything."

"You're an assistant?" Speed asked flatly.

"He's doing the paperwork so I don't have to," Horatio agreed.

"Does he look cute in a skirt?" Speed asked.

"Uh-huh, not that you're ever going to see that picture," Xander said happily, eating a bite of his lunch.  "Want to come out for dinner tonight?  No one's seen you for days.  We're worried the boredom has driven you to underwater basket weaving or something."

"It's driven me to soap operas," he admitted.  "There really is nothing else on tv during the day."

"That's why I started watching cooking shows," Xander agreed.  "Or animal planet."

"It's so cute it's gag worthy," Speed reminded him.  "Comedy Central is okay now and then.  Too much Mad TV right now."

"There's always cartoons," Xander said dryly, making Horatio choke.  "Don't make me do CPR, that one guy'll pounce and beg for film."

Speed choked.  "Oh, god, that's a bad mental image," he moaned.  Horatio nodded.  "Is he still alive, Xander?"

"His mouth is full.  He's nodding."  Ryan tapped and walked in.  "Got more paperwork for me?"

"Nope, casefile for the boss," he said happily.  He noticed the phone.  "Speedle?"

"Yeah, it's me, Wolfe.  How are things going?"

"Okay, I guess.  Eric's an asshole.  Still."

"He's jealous because he wants OCD," Xander told him.

Ryan gave him a look.  "I wouldn't wish it on anyone, Xander."

"It does give you incredible focus," Xander pointed out.

"It does, but it annoys others and you can't get a date."

"Which Eric might want deep down in his heart.  After all, even playboys get tired of the dating scene now and then."  Speed choked again.  "Don't make me rush over to do CPR on you either.  That one guy'll really want film then.  Or he'll ask if we're together or a trio."

Ryan patted Xander on the shoulder.  "You're a bit warped."

"Yeah, and?"  He shrugged.  "You should meet the ones who warped me."

"No thanks, really," he said, fleeing before Xander warped him.

Xander grinned at Horatio.  "I checked my email and Anya wants to come down."

"Only if I can throw her in the ocean," Horatio offered.

"She'd ask if there were mermen. I know she would."

Speed moaned.  "She can't be that bad, kiddo."

"Ever hear of a problem named Anyanka who came when scorned women cried?"

Horatio shuddered.  "Yes."

"That's Anya."  He stared at Horatio for a second.  "My little former demon nympho bunny, who is bunny-phobic."

"Maybe we can set her up with Eric," Speed suggested, making Horatio moan.  "It might help."

"She's probably already met him, Speed.  Coming over for dinner tonight?"

"I'll even cook," he promised.

"Kitchen's clean and there's food in the fridge," Xander offered.  Speed chuckled. "There is.  I have chicken defrosting in the fridge, legs if I remember right."

"I can do something with that," he agreed.  "Later, boys."  He hung up and they could hear him laughing right before the click.

Horatio hung up on their end.  "I'm not sure that was a good laugh."  He finished his lunch.

"Didn't sound anything like Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, or Anya's laughs so it can't be *that* bad."  He smiled and finished his own lunch.  "Okay, so when the forms come back with approved on it I staple them together?"  Horatio nodded.  "And they go in which cabinet?"  He pointed.  "Okay.  I'm assuming that everything's marked?"  Horatio nodded again.  "Then go play in the lab, Horatio.  I can file and answer your phone."

"Let it go to voicemail."  Xander nodded so he cleaned up his mess and left to check on the lab.

Xander finished his and got up to file things, then brushed the crumbs off the desk.  Someone coughed from the doorway and he smiled.  "Yelina, right?"  She smiled and nodded.  "Horatio is playing in the lab somewhere."

"Why are you cleaning his desk?"

"I'm his assistant."

She blinked.  "You're his secretary?  I heard he got one."

Xander snickered.  "Yes, and I do look fabulous in a skirt," he quipped.  She blushed, walking off shaking her head.  "I made coffee if Eric hasn't drank it all."

"Thank you, Xander."  She went to check, finding Horatio in there getting some more water.  "You got a male assistant?"

"Slash bodyguard," he agreed, smiling at her.  "You noticed that I had no paperwork backlog?"

"I noticed he was cleaning your desk for you."

"He already did," he agreed happily. Xander came jogging down the stairs.  "No running in the lab unless it's an emergency," he chastised.

"Just on the stairs," he offered, handing over a note.  "Sorry, bad habit to grab the ringing phone.  The Chief said you've got a budget meeting in two hours and don't you dare duck out to a crime scene.  You did that for the last two months.  Next time I'll let it go to voicemail but he did want me to handle your scheduling book too, boss, so where is it?"

"I don't keep one, Xander."

"Okay, I can handle that."  He smiled. "Maybe he'll give you a raise."

"Not with how backed up he usually is," Yelina teased.

Xander pinched her on the arm. "He has better things to do than paperwork.  I'm pretty sure you all do."  She nodded at that.  "Besides, some bosses do things without needing paperwork.  It's the system that needs the paperwork."  He walked off.  "He said purchasing orders were due in tomorrow so I need a list.  I have an older example."

"I can do that as well," Horatio agreed.  He went to gather the list, handing it over before heading to the reception desk.  "Has the mail gone?"

"It went just before lunch, Lieutenant.  Was there something you were looking for?"

"The budget."

"It went to the Chief's office in that file."

"I'm headed there anyway," he said, giving her a smile.  "Help Xander while I'm gone please?"  She nodded, beaming at him.  "Thank you."  He signed out, heading off to the dreaded meeting.  The Chief had his forms for him.  "Xander got those done this morning."

"Good!  It's about time, it was due last week!"  Horatio had the grace to look sheepish.  "How far down your backlog is he?"


"Even better!  Well worth paying that boy.  Though my secretary does not like being used as a mail forwarding center so she sent him a list of where the forms had to go and who to send them to by name."  That got a smile.  "I see you went up this month beyond him?"

"He adjusted one up by a thousand dollars. Overtime."

"As overflow expenses go, it's not a bad hike so we'll see.  I know you're mostly using Speedle's salary for that right now."  Horatio nodded.  "How is he?"

"Bored.  He's so bored he's watching soap operas."  That got a laugh.  "We'll work it out.  I'm having him over for dinner tonight."

"Good.  How are things working out beyond that?  I heard he's carrying a gun?"

"He has one in his desk but he's only allowed to use it if we're invaded.  He did prove to me that he knows what to do with one."

"Good.  You could use the protection."  The others came in for the budget meeting. "Look, we even managed to find Horatio this month," he joked.

"Long time no see, Caine," one agreed.  "I thought you retired."

"No, I was out on scenes.  Miami never closes and neither do we."  That got a knowing smirk.  They had all ducked out of these meetings in the past.

"From now on we'll keep seeing Horatio unless it's a bad event," the Chief announced. "He has an assistant named Xander....."

"You gave him a male secretary?" one of the females said.  "That's liberal of you, boss."

"Xander's been assisting him at home.  He's recently moved down here from California?" Horatio nodded.  "So anything you need from Horatio in a paperwork way send it to Xander.  He's already cleared most of this month's backlog.  Speaking of, Stephen, you have an envelope on the desk.  Those things he wasn't sure of came here."

"Already got it, Chief.  Now, what's up?  Going up or down?"

"Trying to keep it down," he reminded them, getting down to the meeting.


Xander got home first and sniffed, moaning.  "Oh, that smells good."  Speed came out of the kitchen.  "He had one more meeting and then he'll be home."

"I never expect him before seven anyway," he offered, going back into the kitchen.  "Go change, Xander."  Xander shrugged.  "You're comfortable?"

"Yeah, perfectly fine."  He grinned at him.  "I'm like that."  He gave him a hug.  "How are you feeling?"

"Better.  Not as bored.  Get off."  Xander got off him.  "Thanks."  He looked over as Horatio walked in.  "He said there was another meeting."

"There was but the person in it managed to get grazed at a bank robbery earlier so it's postponed."   He sniffed.  "Chicken?"  Speed nodded.  "Thank you."  He smiled at Xander.  "He cleared my backlog, fixed the budget sheet, filed, proofed a report for Calleigh, and then one for Ryan."

"Way to go, Xander.  Keeping him paperwork free means a lot around the lab."  Xander grinned, leaving them alone so he could go to the bathroom.  He looked at him.  "How did it work on a scene?"

"I didn't have one today."  That got a nod.  "It mostly went fine.  The Chief teased me and got the other heads to do the same."  Speed shrugged.  "He told them to send things directly to Xander from now on."

"Might keep you freer to do the things you need and want to," Speed reminded him.

"True, especially if I can get hold of my senses on scenes."

"We can run tests," Xander said when he came back without his shoes on.  "Blair sent me an email earlier about testing methods.  Nothing that would bust you if someone was spying on me checking my email at the end of lunch but things to use to make sure the control was there.  Things like herb tests."

"Spotting, sniffing, or finding?" Speed asked.

"All three.  He also suggested a 'throw the ball into the ocean and see how far he can track it' exercise and the same thing across a field.  How far away can you hear me and stay in control."

"Sometime soon," Horatio told him.

"Okay.  Do you want me to start forwarding your office phone to my line?  That way you don't have to deal with it?"  Speed smiled.  "That way I can intercept the bad calls, like Stetler, who threatened to expose me for some reason."  He shrugged.  "I don't know why he's going to strip me naked but if he wanted all he had to do was ask.  I stripped to get my car fixed.  I'm not ashamed of my body anymore."  Speed handed him a soda.  "Thank you."  He sipped it.  "They were out in the machines.  Ryan went on a caffeine binge and I can't stand coffee."  He walked off.  "Need my help to set the table or anything?"

"We can eat on the porch," Horatio told him.  "Go relax, Xander.  Those papers always vex me."

Xander gave him a look.  "I've seen worse.  You should try filling out ER paperwork cold for your friend's mother because she's too scattered to do it."  He went to watch tv, putting on his headphone system so he wouldn't bother them while he giggled at his anime.

"He always uses headphones," Horatio told him.

"He doesn't want to annoy you, H.  It's a good, thoughtful thing."  He gave him a squeeze to the arm.  "How did he do really?"

"A bit bouncy.  Others know he has a gun in his desk in case we're assaulted again.  He and Mr. Wolfe got into a talk on Douglas Addams versus Piers Anthony after lunch that made Eric look very confused until Ryan told him they were humorous fiction authors.  Then he walked off shaking his head muttering about geeks and not even as strange as you are."  Speed smirked  at that.  "Apparently his ex wanted to come down and I promised to toss her in the ocean."

"Are you two....?"

Horatio shrugged.  "I don't know.  He doesn't let me get that deep with him yet, Speed.  Not that I need that sort of connection but he's only letting us see the outer shells."

"What did the background check say?"

"That we had a similar background but he started to hunt with Buffy in tenth grade."  Speed shuddered.  "Until the parking garage fell on him.  He told Rick he was a combat veteran.  I let the Chief see Calleigh's background check when Rick pushed it."  That got a nod.  "He had a very bad feeling earlier that made him check my mail, finding a letter bomb."

"Which is what you need.  You told me Jim went into Blessed Protector mode, but you don't or aren't yet.  Maybe you're going to switch that role with Xander.  He seems like the sort to *need* someone to protect."

"Then why is he planning on moving out?"

"Because he doesn't want to be an inconvenience to you, Horatio.  He's being thoughtful and he doesn't think it'll go there either."  Horatio nodded at that, checking on Xander.  He was on the food channel again.  "What's he watching?"

"A show on stir frying I think."  Speed smiled, checking the chicken and stuffing dish, pulling it out.  "Is it done?"

"It has to rest for a few," he ordered.  "Open a can of veggies for me."  Horatio nodded, doing that.  "Is there anything he won't eat?"

"Lettuce."  Speed snickered.  "If he doesn't want to eat vegetables that's his thing.  More for us."  Xander padded in to get more soda, giving him a look over the arm.  "Corn?"

"Corn's nice," he agreed, going back to the tv.  He came back to look in a cabinet, frowning then went back to watching the tv.  Horatio followed him.  "What are we missing?"

"I was going to try that one but we're out of ginger," he admitted, turning off his headset system and turning up the volume so he could hear it too.  "It sounds good."

Horatio listened then nodded.  "Maybe some weekend soon.  We can download the recipe tonight."

"I can do it at work."

"That can get you in trouble. They check those things."

"Not like it's porn."

He smiled. "It's any personal use.  I don't mind checking your email during lunch but they can bust you for that too."

"I'll keep it down."

"Thank you."  He ruffled his hair.  "It's nearly time."

"Okay.  The ginger and orange brulee didn't sound right anyway."   He turned off the tv, heading in to grab plates and then glasses for the other two.  Speed dished things up.  Xander rewashed his hands in the sink then handed Horatio a plate.  He shooed Speed out, covering things with a large cheesecloth he had folded up for that purpose, handing him his plate too.  He followed them outside, settling in to listen to the ocean.  Speed looked at him.  "I like the sound but the sight isn't as great to me.  Not until sunset."

"Oh."  He nodded.  "That kinda makes sense.  Any other good emails come today?"

"Anya sent one threatening me if I didn't come back to her.  Very graphic so I wrote back and told her that we had broken up because she stole from me, I wasn't coming back, and I was in Baltimore."  Horatio snickered.  "Then I reported her to her ISP for sending porn and threats through them."  Speed snickered.  "Willow sent one asking about Dawn.  I told her she was fine with Jethro, I had checked on her nightly.  Her first day of school went fine.  She had a few tentative friends already.  That Jethro was making her take up jogging with him.  That she was allowed to gopher around his office in the afternoons if she wanted to, but he wasn't going to make her, and that she already found someone to have a crush on.   So she's probably not happy but oh well."  He ate another bite.  "I got one from Giles that Tara typed in for him.  He said he's very sorry they ran me off."  He gave them a look at Horatio's growl.  "He ignored it but they did it intentionally.  Chill.  I wrote Tara back too, told her how happy I am and all that.  How good Dawn's doing in DC with Jethro.  To tell Giles that I forgive him for ignoring me; after all I'm not Buffy.  I'm not his duty.  I also told her to tell him that with a slayer like her I'd have handcuffed her to my side to keep her out of trouble so of course he ignored everyone else in favor of her.  Though I did suggest he start watching Willow's magic use since she's using so much.  By the way, I'm going to ward the house against her.  Just because I can feel her doing stupid shit," he called, looking up.  She appeared next to him.  "Morning."

"This is Baltimore?"

"No, this is Miami but I don't want Anya anywhere near me."

"Oh."  She flopped down next to him.  "So you're living here?"  He pointed at Horatio.  "I didn't see you, hi.  I'm Willow."

"I remember," Horatio told her.  "I came with Xander to help him pick up a few things."

"Oh, yeah.  Sorry, I wasn't paying attention then."

"Hmm," he said, stuffing his mouth before he said anything else.  "You two can go inside if you're going to fight."

"Why would I fight with her?" Xander asked, looking at him again.  Then at Willow.  "What?"

"I'm not going bad with the magic stuff."

"Memory.  Charm."  Her face fell and she pouted at him, looking down at her lap.  "You need help, Willow.  You're turning sides and I'd hate to have to stop you some year.  Because we all know Buffy won't be able to."  She nodded, still looking down.  He tipped her face back up before taking a bite, staring at her.  "Go home.  Think.  Fix it."


"Buffy's a bitch.  Her mom left her that stuff.  Buffy only wanted it to prove she was the special one yet again.  So get over it.  I even let Dawn have my tv since Horatio has one.  Leave Dawn alone.  You didn't care before.  You don't care now.  She's a pawn and she'll beat your ass if you try.  Because if you make *her* slip, we're all screwed."  She nodded, swallowing.  "I know she told you the same thing.  You owe her an apology, you owe Tara an apology.  You owe me a real one.  Until you're better, I'm not going to let Dawn accept it."

"He could be hurting her."

"Jethro?  Hell no, Willow."  He grimaced, shaking his head.  "Jethro likes smart redheads around his own age.  He's been married three times.  He's a career Marine."

"He's often hunted down the people who like girls Dawn's age," Horatio offered.  "He goes the hardest on those who hurt children.  I trust Jethro with my life, Willow."


Xander popped her on the head.  "I learned that from Jethro."  She glared at him.  "Leave Dawn alone.  You don't care.  It was pretty obvious you never cared.  Or else you would have been looking for a way to keep her safe.  Instead of me doing all the research and then fixing the problem so Glory couldn't come out again.  You were off playing with dark magic.  They made Dawn of Buffy, they made her Buffy's sister on purpose.  Joyce knew that when she updated her will two months before she collapsed."  Willow glared harder. "She did.  I was one of the people who was a witness for her.  She knew, she had known for a few days.  It apparently didn't make a bit of difference to her.  If you don't believe me, see if you can do a seance without hurting her.  If not, then drop it.  You don't have to care anymore.  I'll do that for you, just like always.  Now, anything else?"

"Your parents are missing."

"Cool, I can throw a party," he said dryly, shrugging again.  "And?"  She huffed and disappeared.  "I can get Dawn to tell me how to block that," he offered, stuffing his mouth again.

"What sort of party did you want to throw?" Speed asked.

Xander looked at him.  "A 'whoo-hoo, they're gone' party.  Means I don't have to deal with their crap anymore."  That got a smile from Horatio.  "I don't.  They don't have a will, they publically disowned me a few times in the grocery store.  I can claim that they did it for real with the witnesses I can pull and the tape I have somewhere.  That means I'm not responsible for their debts either.  Go me, I'm free."   He ate some corn.  "But I will fix the Willow issue by this weekend, Horatio."

"That's fine.  Will it be intrusive?"

"Dawn's able to do it with a bowl of stuff and a finger.  It'll be a bit herby for a few minutes."  He got up to find his cellphone, walking out taking notes.  "Okay, then I do what?"  He nodded, writing that down.  "Thanks.  Laid it out for her.  Oh, Anya was told I was in Baltimore.  If she comes here I'm sending her to DC.  Jethro's better at putting down the deluded.  Thanks, Dawnie."  He hung up, handing it over.  "She's making mac'n'cheese for dinner.  That's what I need to do."  He sat down and got back to his dinner, taking a sip of his soda.

"That's not too bad.  Can you do magic?" Horatio asked.

"Enough to set a book on fire by accident.  I can't use a lot and I'm not going to even try.  As long as I can do a protection circle and I can summon the remote when I'm lazy or in pain I'm good."

Horatio handed it back with a smile.  "Then I wouldn't mind.  I don't want her able to do that in the middle of the night."

"She'd never sneak in on you.  She likes girls now."  He ate another bite.  "Though, if I can talk Tara down here I will.  She needs to get out of Sunnydale.  She's gentle and nice."

"I remember her," Horatio agreed.  "She was very nice."  Xander smiled.  "You'd like her, Speed.  She's very shy, but very delicate.  She's also the one who hit Anya when she started to complain.  She stuttered when she yelled at her.  Very motherly."

"She's the sort of woman I wished my mother was like," Xander told him.  "She bakes excellent brownies.  I've got to get her recipe."  He frowned for a second then went back to eating.  "I'll get it from her this weekend."  He scraped his plate, then drained his soda.  "You make good food, Speed."  He gave him another hug then went inside.  "That way you guys can talk about cases and stuff."

Speed looked at Horatio.  "Does he still think we're together?"  Horatio nodded, eating another bite.  "Want more?"

"No, I'm good.  He made a very hearty sandwich for lunch.  I need to start jogging again or none of my pants will fit."  Speed smiled at that.  "I know, it's tough being spoiled."  He frowned, licking his mouth.  "That's an odd flavor."

"Flavor or scent?" Speed asked.  "Xander!"  He came out with his newest soda.  "He's hitting on something."

Xander came over, resting a hand on his shoulder.  "Close your eyes.  What is it?"

Horatio closed his eyes, running his tongue over the roof of his mouth again.  "Old Spice."

"Can you tell which direction?"

"The wind just shifted," Horatio said, putting down his plate to follow it, Xander right behind him.  He found someone lurking in the bushes and hauled him up to look at him. "You are?"

"One of the putzes who follows Stetler around," Speed said as he joined them.  "I called dispatch to tell them you had a prowler.  They can remove him."  A cruiser pulled up and an officer got out.  "The one Horatio's holding.  He was in the bushes spying on him."

"I'm an officer out of IAB."

"Then produce a warrant or you're being arrested," Xander told him.  "You have no authority to do anything without a warrant and you know it."  The man spluttered.  "Ah!" he warned.  "Do not make me kick your ass.   I did it to your boss, I can do it to you.  Now, warrant or not?"  He shook his head.  "Horatio?"

"He is trespassing if he doesn't have one," he agreed, handing him over.  "Leave it up to your supervisor if he's to be arrested or not."  The officer nodded, dragging him off. "Thank you for coming so quickly."

"You get into bad sorts of trouble, Lieutenant.  It could've been a bomber or an assassin or anything like that with your rep."  He grinned before he got into his car, taking the idiot away.

Xander looked at him.  "Assassins too?  I didn't get to hear that story.  Is it better than some of my dating ones?"

"Probably not," Horatio admitted, following him back to the porch.

"How bad have you dated?" Speed asked.

"Ever hear of a problem called Anyanka?"  Speed shuddered.  "That was Anya, the last girlfriend and the least deadly to me.  Before that was Cordelia, who was a very mean, snarky, evil cheerleader.  She's working with Angel at the moment.  Then there was Ampata, she was an Inca Mummy who had been brought back to life.  She had to kill others to live.  I really liked her too.  Even if she did want to suck Buffy dry.  I had a crush on Buffy for a bit.  That got broken though.  Oooh, and my first time nearly came from a changeling.  She was a six-foot praying mantis."  He grinned.  "She wanted virgins to fertilize her eggs."

"You've got Eric and me beat," Speed said, shaking his head. "Date H, it'll be good for you both."

Xander frowned.  "I'm not stepping on toes, Speed."

"We're not...."

"Then you wouldn't be grabbing onto his arm," he said knowingly, giving him a little grin before going inside.

Speed looked down then frowned at Horatio.  "Am I as touchy with you as Blair is?"  He nodded, giving him a small smirk.  "No wonder he thinks we're dating."

"You like girls."

"Not always."

Horatio smiled.  "We'll figure that out as well, Speed.  We have time."

"There's never as much time as you think," Xander called.  "He's already been shot once."  He put on his headphones and went back to his comedy movie.

"I thought Blair was pushy," Speed said nervously.

"We'll figure it out, Speed.  We still have time," Horatio assured him.  Speed relaxed and smiled, nodding a bit.  "Want seconds?"

"Please."  He handed over his plate, watching as Horatio swatted Xander on the head before going to get them more food.


Dawn hung up the phone, looking back at Tony when he came in.  "Xander got a Willow visit too.  He needed to know how to de-Willow the house.  Is the boss coming back late?"

"No, he'll be here soon."  He looked at her.  "It doesn't matter to me, Dawn.  You were special even before I knew."  She smiled at that, going back to her stirring.  "Mac 'n' cheese?"  She nodded, holding up the hotdogs, making him smile.  "Putting them inside?  If so I'd cook them first."

"I was going to boil them when he came in.  That way he had time to clean up and change if he wanted to."

"It's been a crappy paperwork day," Tony admitted, coming closer.  "How are you holding up?"

"The first day went okay.  I found a few girls who appreciated me.   One boy openly stared at my ass but he was geeky and a dweeb with *hugely* bad skin.  So a math tutor sort."

"McGee," he agreed with a grin.  "I played ball."

She poked him on the arm.  "I can tell."  He grinned at that.  "What else happened today?"

"Nothing much.  The director tried to ask him about Xander and he gave her a look that sent her walking off in a huff."  Gibbs walked in.  "She had a boy staring, boss."

"Gee, just nark, Tony," she complained.  "Nothing serious, Jethro.  He simply stared in awe of my magnificence.  Do you like your hotdogs boiled or microwaved?"

"Boiled is fine."  He came in to check on dinner, smiling.  "Plain, usual food.  Thanks."

"Welcome.  I told you I'm a simple food sort.  I'm still learning.  Though I think I need more milk in the pot," she admitted.  He handed it over, letting her splash some more in.  Tony took over while she got the hotdogs ready to be boiled.  "Are you staying, Tony?"

"If you want.  We can go over what you're studying?"

"Crap, crappier, physics for some unknown reason, PE, and Home Ec.  Ooh, and English Lit."  She shook her head.  "I have no idea how I got into physics."

"Did Willow maybe adjust your records?" Tony asked.  She stared at him then moaned and stomped off.  "We can have McGee check tomorrow, Dawn."

"Thank you.  If she did, I get to smack her around this time, right?"

"Sure," Gibbs agreed.  "Works for me."  He nodded her closer, looking at her. "Crap?"

"Accounting for math and ooh, typing."

"At least it's an easy grade," Tony told her.  She poked him again then went to the bathroom.  "Do you mind, boss?"

"Not a bit, DiNozzo.  We're still working on stuff and you've been working with me at the office," he said.  Tony nodded.  Gibbs motioned him closer.  "Check my collar," he mouthed.  Tony nodded, doing that for him, holding up the bug.  "I thought she did that."  He threw it in the microwave and turned it on.  Three seconds later it exploded.  Dawn came back in, giving it a look.  "Bug."

"Hmm.  Won't work in the house. Part of what I did to keep Willow out.  If I did it right the only frequencies that'll work are radio, tv, and cellphone."  She grinned.  "Xander used to love spy movies."  She checked the hotdogs.  "How do you know they're done without breaking off a piece to see if they're warm?"

Tony smiled, handing her a fork.  "They'll feel done."  She nodded, poking one.   She tried again a few minutes later.  After the third time he took the fork, then turned off the burner.  "That's done, Dawn."

"Okay."  She drained them, putting them, the buns, the ketchup and other fixings on the table, letting him get the macaroni while Jethro got the plates and water. "Jethro, the school said I cannot bus to your office.  Nor am I old enough to be allowed to use the city busses.  I'm only old enough to come home and they do suggest I have a guardian here.  I slipped up and said I'd have an hour."

"By city standards you're old enough to stay at home for up to three hours by yourself," Tony told her.  "They're alarmists who worry about you going out of control and doing stupid stuff, like drugs."

"Ooooh, that was the other thing."  She got up to get a paper, bringing it back. "Please excuse me from the 'scared away from sex' class?  I don't think I need the BS approach to sex ed."

He looked it over then checked the box and signed it.  "Anything else?"

"Want my schedule?"

"I need a copy," he agreed.  She handed that over too.  "Thanks."  He put it on the fridge for tomorrow.  "You sure you want out of that one?"

"I talked to the teacher.  She went on and on about how great and free all the students were since they knew sex was evil and even thinking about it was going to make them catch something.  I told her I knew how to masturbate, it was enough until I was seventeen.  She choked and went purple then gave me the form and said she didn't need the students to be taught that."  Tony choked on his laughs.  "So yes, I don't want to be scared away from sex or told BS lies about how I'll catch something from smutty thoughts about the physics teacher.  Who is skinny, really geeky, but kinda hot for some reason.  Maybe he's mixing his pheromones or something."  She shrugged, grabbing food and fixing her hotdog.  "Eat, people.  I slaved for all of ten minutes over that."  Jethro smiled and dug in.  "I'll start getting off at the bus stop on the corner and hike across the street to catch the city bus."  He nodded at that.  "Bus pass?"

"I'll make sure you have one tomorrow," he promised.  She smiled at that. "I've already told security and given them a picture of you.  If you have any problems, have them call me or Abby if I'm not there."  She nodded, eating another bite.  "Thanks for the real food."

She grinned.  "I told you I was going to make normal stuff.   Ooh," she said, wiggling a little bit.  "Xander is now Horatio's assistant.  Someone asked him if he looked good in a skirt."  Tony snickered at that.  "He said yes but they'd never find out.  I don't know when he found out but okay.  Anyway, he's got him doing all his paperwork, cleared his desk today for him, and he's got a gun in his desk in case something happens.  Horatio's starting to complain that none of his clothes are going to fit soon.  Xander made him a triple meat sandwich for lunch today.  Lean stuff so he wouldn't get fat in a bad way but he's seriously into his spoiling of the Horatio."

Jethro smirked at that.  "Someone needs to.  The guy gives everything he has and doesn't get anything back."

"That's what Xander said.  He said Horatio was so happy not to have any paperwork he offered to let Xander bake another triple chocolate layer cake and even let him have some since he gets so bouncy on chocolate."  That got a laugh from both men.  "I do need that recipe from him.  It's sinful.  It's three types of chocolate on a three layer cake.  Not that I can be as artistic as Xan is but it's still sinful.  Definitely PMS food but also for good occasions."  She stuffed her mouth again.  "Abby said she wanted my apple recipe."

"It was good," Tony agreed.  "Calm down and eat."  She went back to eating.  "Boss, after dinner should we go into the woods and do some finding exercises?  I know you hate them but it could help."

"We can do that.  You can be the target."  Tony nodded, getting seconds since that meant he'd be running and hiding.  "Eat, Dawn."  She got another hotdog to eat.  "Anything else I should know?"

"I put lunch money onto my ID card today for the days I don't make a lunch.  It's got twenty for those times.  The two girls who kinda like me are seeing how cool I really am.  One's the daughter of someone who works in Congress and the other's the daughter of the post guy around here.  She told me how to change my address.  Oh, one last thing.  Xander forwarded me an email.  Anya's pissed and looking for him.  He told her he's in Baltimore.  Willow knows better though."  They both nodded.  "So if the brunette shows up yelling loudly about orgasms and her pookie not being around, it's Anya.  Tell her he's moved on and let me know so I can come walk her off.  Or let her and the Director talk about Xander."  She smiled sweetly.  "Anya's enough to stop any and all problems or her coming after me."  She ate one last bite, then put her dishes in the sink.  "Let me change."  She went to do that.

Jethro looked at Tony.  "She's very active."

"Is Xander more hyper?"


"Poor Horatio."  Jethro smiled, finishing his dinner.  Tony cleaned up the rest of the mac 'n' cheese for him then put things into the sink so they could do them later.  Dawn came down in jeans and a t-shirt, plus sneakers.  "You might want a jacket, it'll get a bit cool."  She jogged back up the stairs, getting a zipping hoodie.  "You know we have winter here, right?"  She slowly shook her head.  "We'll have to fix that then."

"I said I'd go shopping with you next time so you don't buy a suit that clashes with you."  She took Jethro's arm to walk him outside, looking at Tony.  "You're it."  He smiled and jogged off, letting her turn Jethro around to face the house. "Is that a bird in the attic?  I heard something moving around last night."

He upped his hearing then nodded.  "It is.  I'll check on it later.  It shouldn't hurt anything."  She smiled at him.  "You ready?"  He heard a quiet 'ready, boss' and turned back around.  "Scent, sound, or what?"

"You're the tracker, I'm here to make sure you don't zone.   Teach me what you need me to do, Gibbs."  He smiled and nodded, closing his eyes to listen.  "I'm here," she said quietly, resting a hand on his shoulder.  He nodded, heading off in a direction.  She followed, staying close but out of his way.  When they paused she went back to the 'helping' posture Blair had taught her.  They found Tony a few minutes later and he took off again while they chatted about school and winter stuff.  Then he heard Tony call out and they were off again.  This time it was harder.  Tony had picked somewhere more complex smelling.  He had to switch to hearing.  That was harder for him.  The woods were loud when he turned up his hearing.  Dawn moved closer.  "Filter things out that should be here," she whispered.  "The birds, the leaves, all that stuff should be here.  Find the spot of 'not right' and we'll find him."  He jogged off, letting her catch up.  "I am going to have to take up jogging, aren't I?"  Jethro smirked and nodded, finding a hole in the ground.  "Huh.  Tony, are you in the hole?"  No answer.  They looked.  No Tony but definitely a spot of wrongness.  "Did someone blow it up?"

Gibbs squatted down, sniffing one of the leaves.  "Yeah, dynamite."  He looked around then found Tony nearby.  He walked off. "Wait here.  Yell if someone else comes."  She nodded, sitting on a rock near the edge of the hole.  He found Tony, hauling him out of the makeshift cave that had animals living in it.  "That was a good spot.  We found a blasted hole."

"Any idea what?"

"Dynamite."  They walked back and found Dawn staring at some guy with a shotgun.  He coughed.  "Federal agents.  Freeze."  The guy looked at him.  Dawn hopped up and onto his back, scratching his face until he dropped the shotgun.  "That'll work too."  She got off before the guy fell in the hole.  Jethro helped her up.  "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  He was asking why I was out here on his land.  I told him I was walking out here with my guardian and you were close by."  She sat down again, opening her phone.  "Hi, Ducky, it's Dawnie.  If we're in Jethro's woods do we call county people for threatening me and him?"  She smiled.  "He's checking on the blasted open hole."  She gently nudged Jethro with her foot, giving him a look.  "Thanks, Ducky.  Yeah, we're about a mile behind the house.  Sure, track my GPS.  Thanks."  She hung up but left her phone on.   "He'll send the county guys out."  She looked in the hole.  "Is he dead?"

"No," Tony said.

"Good."  She smiled at him.  "At least it's not a demon."  She pointed.  "I'd scream but it'd freak and it's got scent packs like a skunk when it freaks.  It's pretty harmless."  She waved.  "I'm from Sunnydale.  I live with that one," she called, pointing at Jethro.  "Please don't skunk us.  There's more people coming too."  The demon gave her a pitiful look so she got up, walking over there slowly.  "It's all right.  Did the big meany in the hole disturb your hunting grounds?"  It whispered something.  "Your den?  Was your family in there?"  It shook its head.  "Then I'm sorry and he's going to pay.  I already scratched him and knocked him into the hole.  I can make him more miserable for trying to kill you.  After all, you're no more harmful than any regular skunk."  That got a shy smile.  "You should scamper off.  There's police coming."  It nodded, running off to hide and watch.  Dawn walked back, floating the guy up to look at him, letting him hover for a second.  "You tried to hurt a defenseless creature by blowing up his home and family?  How pathetic are you?"  She waved a hand and he fell again, screaming when he landed this time.  "Good!  Next time don't go after the harmless things!  Puss bag!"  She sat down again, crossing her legs, smiling at the officer who was tromping their way.  "Over here, dear.  He's in the hole.  He just shifted and screamed.  He's the guy who blew the hole we think but he had a gun on me.  So I scratched him when he turned around and knocked him in there."

"That's fine, ma'am, always better to be safe than have you injured too.  Special Agent Gibbs."

Jethro nodded in greeting.  "Dawn's under my protection.  We were walking off and I had to retrieve DiNozzo so she waited here.  He came up on her while I was gone."

"Then he's a really pitiful guy who thought he was going to scare an innocent young woman."  They hauled him out together, letting him look at him.  "Those scratches'll scar.  Good job, Dawn."

"Thank you.  I had the good self defense lessons from my other guardian."  She smiled sweetly and wiggled her fingers before going back to picking the skin out from under her nails.  "Have fun with him.  His shotguns's behind Tony, Officer."  He smiled at her, grabbing it and walking the guy off.  "Have a better night, Officer."

"You too, miss.  Gibbs, DiNozzo."  He nodded politely at them before disappearing.

"Cordy taught me that move," she said proudly.  "Xander's ex, the queen cranky one of Sunnydale's cheerleading squad."

"The move where you pretended to be helpless or the scratching part?" Jethro asked, looking a little bit amused.

"Both.  That's how she rolled.  Do it yourself because *no* one was going to save you and then let the officials handle it while you cleaned your nails."  She stood up.  "Go run again, Tony."  He smiled and took off, shaking his head.  She took Jethro's arm.  "Cordy *always* gave as good as she got.  Plus more if she was upset with you.  I learned a lot of girl things watching her."  She smiled at him.  "Let's go find the Tony toy."  He laughed as they walked off again, going to find Tony in the deepening dark.  Dawn was one hell of a  young woman.  Someday she might even be scarier than Ziva.  She was definitely not some helpless flower he'd have to watch over and coddle, which was good because he didn't have the patience for coddling.  "So, winter?  Is that like the snow that made Xander invisible and brought bad nightmares in Sunnydale?"

"Without the magic crap," he agreed.

"Good.  I'd hate to be invisible."  She shrugged.  "Not that I think I will be but if it went that way I might turn into my sister."  He gave her a squeeze.  "Thanks, Jethro."  She pointed.  "Isn't that his jacket?"

"It is."  They went to look.  Tony had planted that there then moved on.  He scanned.  "Where?" he muttered.

"How many animals have human style heartbeats out here, Jethro?" she asked gently.  He smirked at her and focused on that and breathing, finding him.  They were even nice enough to bring his jacket to him since it was a bit breezy.  The next time Tony ran for the house, even putting on coffee for them so that when they found him there was some waiting on Gibbs.


Xander got the call from Horatio, sticking his headset on.  "I'm here.  What's up, boss?"  He listened then nodded.  "Well, I can tell you there's a message from the Chief.  He said I'm missing some paperwork from HR but he doesn't know what and when I called they didn't know what," he said, babbling so Horatio could use his others senses on the scene.  That's what he wanted him to do.  "There was a call from an ADA West, who snickered when I said I was your assistant.  The Miami version of Buffy wanted a call back when you have a free moment about the Jergins case.  Then switch off," he suggested.  "Try smell instead of sight?"  He smirked at that groan.  "She called back again when you didn't call within ten minutes.  I did tell her you were on a scene and there were multiple bodies, it was going to be at least lunch, if not after shift.  She threw a Buffy hissy.

"No, she's not smart enough to be a Cordelia clone that got sent back in time.  Because there's no one exactly like her, so therefore they had to send any other people trying to be her clones back if they're older than the original.  Trust me, dated the woman, boss."  He snickered at the assurance that West was just as bad.  "Also, Ryan was looking for you looking very confused and a bit scary.  Is he on steroids or something?  He had a mood swing and I don't think he's pregnant.  Though I did ask if he was pregnant when he had the mood swing.  He gave me a horrified look and stomped off.  No, he's better now.  He had some water, a tylenol, and ten outside.  No more moodiness."  He laughed at Horatio's assertion that Ryan's mood swings weren't steroid or pregnancy related. "If you say so.  Anything else I can do for you?  Hold on, there's the putz.  Yes, Stetler?"

"Is that your boss?" he demanded.

"He's checking for messages.  Can I give him one?"

"I need him back here now.  You lied on some forms."

"So that's where they went.  HR said some went missing.  No I didn't."

"You didn't list any service."

Xander sighed, hanging up with Horatio so he could motion him inside.  He pulled up something on the computer.  "Willow's been putting things online for the others at the Watchers' Council who're too proud to ask Giles for anything."  He turned the monitor around so he could see it.  "That's raw film footage from my high school graduation.  One of the parents taped it.  See if you can spot me."  The man watched it, then gave him a horrified look.  "That's my combat experience.  Three years in high school, then the last year and a half as well.  All I ever got off from it was that misbegotten road trip when I ended up in Oxnard.  Like I said, I've got *combat* experience.  I didn't say I was a military veteran."

Stetler backed away from him.  "But...."

"Yeah, but.  You can finish watching it."  He unpaused it, letting him see.  He pointed at the large demon that came into frame.  "That was the mayor.  That was what he was doing.  Going to eat us all and then take over the world."  The rest kept playing while the other man stared in fascinated horror, pressed against the wall.  At least until the school blew up.  "Those were my battle plans," he said quietly.  "I'm damn proud we only lost twelve kids, all green, never been in more than a fistfight, kids.  I led the defensive line.  I'm like that," he said firmly, standing up.  "Now, did you have more questions about my combat experience and would you *please* give my papers back to HR before they make me fill them out again?"

Stetler swallowed.  "You, um... um, you claimed stripping?"

"I was broken down.  It paid to get the car fixed so I could go home.  Don't know *why* I went home since the ladies didn't appreciate my being there."  Stetler gave him an odd look.  "They had special girl syndrome.  Still do.  They're getting over it sometime soon since they're quickly losing their support network."  He tipped his head a bit to the side.  "Anything else you wanted to know?  You could *ask* me politely.  I'm agreeable to *polite* questions.  Not ones where you send someone to snoop on Horatio's house, but *polite* questions."  He stared him down.  "Anything else?"  He shook his head, backing out of the room.  "Good.  Then please give my paperwork back to HR?"  He nodded and ran off.  Xander sat down and called Horatio back.  "It's fine.  I showed him the footage someone took of graduation.  Pale and a bit shaky," he said.  "He's also the reason some of the forms disappeared from HR.  He nodded he'd give them back so I didn't have to fill them back out.  How did it work?"  He smiled.  "Good.  Well, I could do that.  Give you something more tangible to carry maybe?  Talisman sort of thing?  That could work," he agreed.  "I'll figure out what, you figure out what senses you want it to evoke.  Welcome."  He hung up, turning his monitor around so he could get back to work.  Ryan leaned around his door.  "I'm fine."

"What did Stetler want this time?"

"To see where my combat experience came from."

"Oh."  He came in, closing the door mostly.  "I was wondering about that."  Xander turned around the monitor, replaying the footage while he worked on a physical form.  Ryan blinked then at him.  "Movie?" he asked.  Xander looked up, grinning and shaking his head.  "Damn.  I had hopes."

"No, sorry.  Three years in high school.  That was grad.  Then a year and a half after that before I left on my second road trip.  At least on that one I didn't end up stripping to fix my broken down POS."

Ryan blinked, then nodded, walking out to get some more tylenol and take another break outside.

Xander turned his monitor back around, clearing the cache and browser history before he closed it out and going back to work.  "And if Stetler writes me up for improper use of the 'net, I'm going to have him eaten," he said quietly, finishing that form and putting it into the folder for Horatio to approve of.


Horatio found Rick in his office with an ice pack in his hand, head held firmly against it.  "I find a long drive works better," he said from the doorway.

Stetler looked up at him.  "Is he dangerous?"

"Only to those who attack whoever he's protecting."  He walked in further, closing the door.  "He is a very protective person."

"That couldn't have been real."

"From what I understand it was."

"They went up in flames with squirt guns and turned into dust with the application of stakes, Horatio.  It couldn't be real."

"I can call Xander to see if we have any of them around here so you can see in person.  That way you have the evidence you need to accept it."  Stetler shuddered, shaking his head quickly.  "If you're sure."  He stared him down.  "Xander is down here to restart his life, Rick.  He left that behind him when a friend's mother died and he got tired of the combat," he said quietly.  "Then a parking garage fell on him and he met a friend of mine, who introduced us."   Stetler shuddered again.  "Xander is sorry for threatening you."

"No he's not.  I'm a threat to you."

"Not at the moment."  He stared him down.  "Did you give back his paperwork?"  He handed over the folder.  "Thank you.  Anything else you need?"

"Why are you helping him?"

"He's starting over from a very bad situation.  Our friend Blair thought I might have a better way of helping him.  That's also how he met Jethro.  He was up to get some help of his own.  That's why his protectee lives with him.  Miami has more construction jobs and that's what he had been doing.  It was practical."

"Whatever.  I don't care.  He is not to attack another person, Horatio."

"Unless they attack him or me, I wouldn't expect him to, Rick.  Anything else?"

"No.  I don't want to hear about him.  Keep him on a tighter leash and make him quit checking his email during lunchtime.  Someone noted a pornographic letter yesterday."

"That was his ex-girlfriend.  The one who recently stole from him and wants him back.  He told her he's in Baltimore so she can't find him.  Believe it or not, he's dated worse.  He's dated a few who would have probably been considered serial killers if they hadn't been stopped."  There was no good, normal explanation for Ampata or the praying mantis woman.  "His one before her may come down now and then.  She's loud, vindictive, and mean.  You two might hit it off."  He smirked at the dirty look he got.  "You might."  He walked out, heading to hand those forms back to HR.  "From Stetler.  He was checking on my assistant."

"Thank you, Horatio," the head of HR said with a small smile.  "How is he working out?"

"Wonderfully.  He's cleared my desk already."  She beamed at that.  "Even if he does pick on Mr. Wolfe now and then it's going very well."

"Picking on one of your CSI?"

"He said he had a mood swing so he asked if he was pregnant."  She giggled at that, swatting at him.  "If that's not all of them, ask Stetler?"  She nodded, letting him go back to his office.  He walked into Xander's office, looking at him.  "Someone did see the letter from Anya."

"I'm sorry they got spammed that way," he said absently, holding up the folder.  "I'll have one more if I can get the math to work out."  Horatio took that one to look at.  "The figures don't jive, Horatio."

"They never do," he sighed.  "Come on, we'll work on it somewhere bigger than this closet, Xander."  He walked him up to his office, finding Ryan giving them odd looks.  "Feeling better?"

"Much, thank you.  Did you see the graduation footage?"  Xander glared at him.  "He should!"

"I don't like to let others see it, Ryan."

"I can see why."  He walked off shuddering in horror.

"There is footage?" Horatio asked.

"Unfortunately one of the parents took it.  Willow bought it off them and put it with some other stuff she's storing online for the farther flung Watchers so they don't have to ask Giles."  They walked into Horatio's office together.  "Hey, Speed," he said when they found him napping in Horatio's chair.  "Are you that bored?"

"Yup.  Came to see if I could help," he said, getting up so Horatio could have his chair back.  "What did you say to Wolfe?  He gave me this 'please don't pick on me too' look."

"He was having mood swings so I asked if he was pregnant."

Speed blinked a few times then gave Xander a hug.  "Did they come back?  Because if those girls came back again we'll kick their asses for you, Xander.  If not, we'll figure out whatever they did and have someone stop it."

Xander grinned.  "I'm just warped this way."

"Then we'll figure it out," he promised, giving him a pat on the cheek.  "Before you warp H too."

"No, I let out a groan that made Eric give me a sympathetic look when I heard he asked that," Horatio told him, looking at the form.  He found his bottle of whiteout and fixed a few entries.  "Use actual, not expected on this one, Xander."

"The manual said to use expected."

"Yes but the Chief hates it when I'm that expectant. I can spring extra overtime on him but if he sees it on this form he complains."  He looked at the entry under Xander's job title then at him.  "You only make that much?"

"I'm a secretary.  That's what Gretchen told me I was making."

"I'll make sure of that with them," Horatio promised, getting back to work on the form.  "All right."  He let him see it.  "It still doesn't balance but it's closer."  Xander grinned at that, signing where he needed to, letting Horatio have it back.  "I'll check on that then forward it to Paula in the Chief's office."

"The letter she sent me said it went to Chrissy in the Budget office," Xander said.

"I've got to go down for the meeting that got postponed so I'll hand it over," he promised, smiling at him.  Xander beamed back.  "Now, we were talking something to help me when I couldn't call?"

"Hmm, talismans," Xander agreed.  "It can take whatever shape you want it to.  From locks of hair on down.  Something you can hide, but hold in your hand."

"So it'd be like a worry stone?" Speed suggested.

Xander nodded.  "Blair said they had to use one when Jim got called to help an old friend in Arizona on an assignment.  What he did was scent a cleaning cloth for Jim's sunglasses.  He links to him by scent and heartbeat."

"Something he could carry around, something he could touch, evoked scent memory," Speed said, nodding slowly.  "That could help some.  How is Jethro doing it?"

"We're not sure yet," Xander admitted.  "Right now they're getting him used to working with her and helping Tony strengthen it at work.  If worst comes to worst, she can always home school up there."  That got nods from both older men.  "Anyway," he sighed. "We can figure that out at home.  Someone's coming."

"Are you two switching places?" Speed asked.

"I'm paying more attention to the hallway," Xander told him.  "What's up, Ryan?"

"How do you do that?" he asked as he walked in with a file.  Xander gave him a look.  "Never mind, former instincts from that combat stuff I guess.  Means no one will be sneaking up on you anytime soon."

"Relax, Ryan, I retired from that," Xander said gently.

"Good!  You probably needed to."  He handed Horatio the folder.  "That's yours.  The printer's on the blink again.  If you need me to I'll reprint that later."

"You probably should, it's very faint," Horatio agreed.  "Did it help?"

"Yes and no.  It helped me find a suspect but they're not the ones who did it and they know who did but won't tell us."

"You only protect very close friends and family that way usually," Xander said.

Ryan nodded.  "Which is a pool of about thirty people.  He was there but he clearly didn't do it.  The ADA won't go for charging him as an accessory."

"Which means you don't have a hold over them," Speed finished.  Ryan nodded.  "We've all had those, Wolfe.  We'll help you figure it out.  For now, take an hour away from it then come back to it, see if you get more ideas."  He nodded, walking off.  "I agree, Xander.  It's better that you've retired."

"That's because you don't want Willow and Buffy to come down," he teased with a small grin.

"That too," Speed agreed, patting him on the back.  That was the second time he had noticed that diversion tactic.  He looked at Horatio.  "Are we working out together tonight?"

"We are going to the gym together.  Xander, would you like to come with us?"

"No, I'm good.  I did my usual PT this morning," he said, grinning at him.  "I should go check the voicemail since I've got you forwarded to my office.  Be right back."  He jogged off, going to do that to give them time alone.

"Can I talk to these girls, see why they're that bad to him?" Speed asked quietly.

Horatio shook his head.  "I tried when I figured it out.  They don't seem to see him.  Buffy said he wasn't helpful or useful.  I have no idea what her problem was.  I find Xander very useful and very helpful.  Even when he's not fussing."

"Some women have no taste.  Thankfully she's not down here or they'd end up dating Eric."  Horatio snickered, shaking his head.  "They would."  He smiled at Xander when he came back in.  "For the record, since we were talking about you behind your back, can I go interrogate your friends?  See where the problem started?"

"In about tenth grade when Willow found magic and Buffy found out how special she was because I brought her back to life," Xander said dryly.


Xander shook his head.  "They have special girl syndrome.  I'm proof that normal people can do the same thing.  It breaks their views off them being gods."

"Others have probably jumped in too," Horatio pointed out.

"Yes but they view them as sidekicks and pets.  Helpers.  Like the butler on Batman.  I was there doing the same thing, and often more, and that doesn't sit well when you've got special girl syndrome.  I'm sure you've seen it in some speciality cops and speciality doctors."

"I have seen it them," Speed admitted.  "The 'I trained to do this specialty, a general doctor isn't as good as I am' attitude when you mention what your other doctor told you."  Horatio nodded that he'd seen that too.  "So they turned you into a helper?"

"If they could have they would've put me into a fluffy apron and had me be the maid," Xander said dryly.  "Willow tried it once but I don't compulse that easily and she got frustrated, so she had to give up before I beat her."

"Did you want her to try that on you?" Horatio asked.

"No but that doesn't always matter to her.  By the way, being a dog is kinda cool."  He handed over the stack of messages.  "Yours from earlier.  The local Buffy called again to insult me while I was down there.  I told her you were just now back and going over your messages.  Your boss's call came before her and if she didn't back down hers was going to get permanently lost, thereby making her drive her snotty butt down here to talk to you in person.  She huffed and hung up when I pointed out she wasn't that special and others came first.  Including the fact that your boss is higher on that totem pole.  Does she really expect you to drop everything to kiss her feet and attend to her whims?"

"You'll find a lot of the lawyers in the District Attorney's office feel that way," Speed told him, grinning some.  "I usually snort, roll my eyes, and walk away when they start on me.  Especially that one since she's got it in for Horatio."

"Huh.  Then I should probably shred the one where she asked him out to dinner?" Xander asked, finding that message to hand to Speed, who whimpered.

"I'll handle that one myself, Xander," he said, taking it back.  "Can you go get me a cup of coffee?"  He nodded, going to do that.  "Give me a minute, Speed."  Speed sat down.  "Speed."

"Watching the master at work, man."  He grinned, crossing his legs and getting comfortable.

Horatio sighed but called.  "Miss West, my assistant said you called a number of times.  Is there a problem on a case?"  He listened to her complain.  "That is an assistant's job, Miss West.  No, I'm just now back.  I do have that one but unfortunately I would have to decline.  Why would you want me there?"  He listened to her reasons.  "I think that would compromise the investigation into his illicit activities so I'd have to decline.  Especially for that reason."  Xander came back with his coffee, earning a smile and the messages being sorted into a by person stack.  He took a sip.  "No, that's not my job.  You could ask the detective on the case.  He asked for me?  Why?"  He frowned, then shook his head.  "I think that would prejudice our case so I'd have to turn him down.  Tell him I can't.  Thank you.  Anything else?"  He hung up after she slammed the phone down.  "Mister Pritchard wanted to have dinner with myself and her to talk about his upcoming plea bargain's details."

"Sounds like a trap," Speed said.  Horatio hummed and nodded, sipping more of the coffee.  "Any other good messages?"

"A few nags by the Chief," he admitted, smiling at one.  Xander was definitely going to get the guard-bear reputation some of the best assistants in the PD had if he kept up this way.  Horatio made one more call then followed Speed out.  They could use their lunch time to go to the gym, even if Xander did hand him a meal-in-a-shake drink on his way past him.  "You eat too," he ordered, popping it open.

"I've already had one of those today."  He went back to his office, going to reforward the phones.  It was important that Horatio spent an equal amount of time with his lover to Xander's mind.


Dawn finally made it through security and she was even escorted up to Gibbs' floor.  "You weren't kidding, they're grabby and mean," she complained, frowning at the guard.

"She's fine," Gibbs told him.

"She's mouthy.  Didn't let anyone pat her down when she beeped."

Dawn looked at him.  "I'm not letting *you* pat me down if I beep.  Not into being groped by older men.  Eww.  Find a female and let her do it next time.  Saves time and energy.  Or, hey, use a handwand since it was a bra wire.  They are *really* common in this world, dude."  He blushed and walked off.  She pointed at his back.  "Had to call four different times, each time older and older guys, until one finally got the bright idea when I said there was *no* way I was being groped by the skanky old guy society.  I even asked for a female," she said, holding up a hand when his mouth opened.  "From now on apparently I've got to quit wearing bras when I come in."  Tony moaned and McGee choked.  "Sorry, boys, but they do insist."  She looked at Gibbs again.  "What'm I doing, boss?" she asked with a bright smile.

"Go make coffee, calm down, don't be that loud again," hr ordered.

"Okay, but I am fifteen," she pointed out, heading in search of the break room.  She found Ziva.  "Gibbs said to make him some coffee.  Which way?"  She pointed.  "Thank you," she said happily.  "Do you get in trouble for your bra wires?"

"I have a pass that gets me through the screening."

"I guess that makes sense."  She found the break room, the coffee, all she needed, and started a pot, getting an odd look when another agent came in.  "Hi, I'm Dawn.  I'm staying with Jethro for a few months."

"We heard he had adopted."

She smirked, shaking her head.  "Not quite.  He's watching out for me while my guardian gets settled in Miami.  That way we have somewhere to live beyond a friend's couch down there."

"That was nice of him, but Gibbs didn't strike me as that sort.  He's never nice."

Dawn shrugged.  "Ask the man."  She finished the coffee making and went to get his cup, bringing it back filled for him and the agent following.  "Anyone else, I made it Xander strength."

The agent sneered at her.  "That's where I know you from.  You're related to Buffy."

Dawn glared at him, hands on her hips.  "She's my older sister and after our mother died she decided I wasn't human.  Anything else you wanna know?  Because, yes, Xander is my guardian since Mommy died and I'm still able to do things the Xander way."  He backed off.  "Good idea!  Been talking to our nice CID guy?"

"Um, yeah, I liaisoned."

"I'd like that file," Gibbs said without looking up.  "Dawn, go proof Ziva's report for her.  English is her third language."

"Okay."  She went to move Ziva, sitting down at her desk to do that.  "How formal are you wanting it, Ziva?  Like English paper formal, science paper formal, or regular speech informal?"

She looked at Gibbs.  "Um..."

"English paper," McGee called.  "Science papers you can't use pronouns and we can in limited cases."

"Okay, stuffy, Gilesy English paper it is."  She looked at the agent.  "I know I'm beautiful, you don't have to stand, stare, and gape in awe."  He stomped off and she got back to work, making corrections.  "I'm putting the corrections in parenthesis behind the sentence, Ziva."  She nodded, letting her do that, sitting on the edge of Tony's desk until he poked her to move.  She looked at Gibbs.  "He made the connection when I mentioned Xander.  Must've been one of those bad run-ins.  I know he had a few with those guys who liked the Initiative's ideas but not their methods."

"Possibly.  Finish that and I'll go beat him in a minute.  After he calms down and quits crying."

Tony looked at him then stood up, then sat down shaking his head.  "Rolaids, boss."  He got back to work on his own report, smiling and sending it over to him.  "There you go."

Gibbs looked at it then at Dawn.  "When you're done, proofread his too.  He's back into chimp writing again."

She giggled.  "I've had a few of those.  They usually indicate lack of sleep."  She got to the end a few minutes later, finishing it.  Then she waved Ziva over.  "You're missing a conclusions section even though it says you have one.  You rambled.  That's why I did the overstrike.  A conclusion is supposed to be a short summary of the report.  Plus a happy ending if there is one.  Like 'he's now in jail' or 'he's awaiting trial at such-and-such a jail'."  She frowned but nodded, getting into the report.  "Let me do Tony's and then I'll help if you need more."  She went to move him but he got up for her, letting her see it.  "Much more formal than I made hers."  She got in there, simplifying it for him.  Then she smiled.  "You write like Giles talks."  She got up, letting him have it.  "Also, conclusion, way too long.  Yet again.  My English teacher would snap and shoot you."  She gave him a pat, going to get Gibbs more coffee since he had just drained his cup.  She found the pot empty so she made another one.  If other people needed it, that was fine.  She was being appreciated.  She came back, handing it to her sentinel, then pulled a chair over since Ziva looked so lost.  "This is mostly parts of speech.  You don't want to write down to someone my age's level so you don't want to use slang.  You don't want to write to someone on Giles' level so you don't want to sound academic.  You would to give a factual account of what happened in plain, simple words that even a juror will understand.  Because jurors are people who can't get an excuse in many cases."  Ziva gave her an odd look.  "Ask Tony."

"In many cases but some do actually want to partake of the system," Tony said patiently.

"Yes, but they're in the minority."

"True. They are."  Ziva nodded at that, going back over her first paragraph with Dawn's help.  It ended up being shorter, tighter, and made a lot more sense when she read it over before sending it to Gibbs.  She smiled at him, looking hopeful.

"Much better," he agreed.  "Still a bit informal but much better, Ziva.  I'm not decoding anything.  Keep it like that."  She nodded, getting onto an older one he had wanted a new copy of once it was fixed.  Dawn stayed with her to help her go over her word choices.  Her 'if it has more than six letters and isn't a technical term, find another word' theory had a lot of merit. Though she did wonder who this Giles person was when she mentioned him proofreading her papers to make her sound smarter.  When Dawn left to do a longer errand for Gibbs she looked him up, frowning.  "Why would a well-known museum person give up a prestigious job and move to become a librarian at a small high school in another country?  Especially a Pre-Greek Middle Eastern specialist moving to *that* town."  She looked up and noticed Dawn was back and leaning on her cubicle wall.

"He's a Watcher," she said quietly.  "That's his assignment.  Pissed him off to no end for a bit from what he said.  He was more into the research end.  And then he got given my sister.  Not what he wanted from life usually.  But now he's more sanguine about it and all that good stuff according to him.  Even though he did have a snap mid-life crisis and lease a little red sports car for about three months after graduation."  She shrugged.

"Did he at least get to teach his speciality to someone?"

"Giles?  He was really shocked the day a girl came in to find a book for a book report.  One of there times in three years that anyone came into his library.  One of them was my sister."  Ziva gaped.  "Shallow town because of the problems.  Ignoring it took a lot of strength.  Though the research parties did delve into his book collection often so I'm guessing at least Willow knows some of the more obscure languages.  I know Xander picked some Latin up at the very least.  He swore at his wrist cast in it when it itched in Cascade."   Ziva shuddered at that.  "Someone had to do the research.  Not like my sister was going to.  She's one of the shallow, non-book people.  She once did a book report on the movie version of the book and mostly wrote on how hot the character was in the movie.  Which is why Xander wasn't the only one with some poor grades.  Willow cheated on Buffy's behalf more often."

"You know, if she's still doing that you could turn the dear woman in," Tony offered with a small, evil smirk for his partner in evil thoughts.  "People can get kicked out of college for cheating that way."

Dawn smirked back.  "Oooh, you think so?"

"I know so.  Find them online and send a message to the dean of the college she's in."

"Oooh," Dawn said, coming over to steal his keyboard, bending over to find it online.  She found the college and the email address, typing in a very long email about how her sister had never done any of her own homework due to her nightlife schedule, and how she was always making her roommate help her by having her do it for her.  Since her roommate was also writing papers for her tutees, she should also be investigated.  But not her girlfriend because Tara had nothing to do with that scandal.  She sent it after a quick read over, then grinned at him.  "Thank you.  I like your evil mind.  It goes well with my shoes."  She gave him a head nudge and went back to helping Ziva with her reports.

Tony chuckled, closing that browser so he could get back to his own work.


Horatio came home that night and found Xander working out to a Tai Chi tape, smiling at the graceful way he moved.  He suddenly realized he was there because he stopped.  "You can keep going."


"Keep going, Xander.  I can dish up my own food."  Xander gave him a sheepish look.  "Or I can warm up something for both of us.  Go back to your workout."  He went into the kitchen, finding Xander had forgotten to cook since he had said it'd probably be a late night. He found some of the many leftovers in the refrigerator, pulling them out to make plates for them.  He brought one out to Xander, finding him cleaning up his mess.  "Quit.  Now."  Xander gave him a confused look.  "You're not the housekeeper, Xander.  You're my guide."

"But disorder...."

"Jim talked to you," he said dryly.  "Do you remember what the house looked like when you first got here?  How dusty it was?  How the only thing that was organized was my closet and my desk?"  Xander nodded slowly, still looking confused.  "I don't care if the magazines are messed up, Xander.  You can do your workouts in here if you want.  Just move the coffeetable back so I don't trip over it when you're done.  You're not the housekeeper and you're not my mother.  Be yourself."

"I am."

"Are you usually a neat freak?"  Xander shook his head quickly.  "Then you're trying too hard, Xander.  I already like you; you leaving out a glass now and then won't make a difference.  The same as now and then we can eat leftovers if you don't want to cook that night."  He sat down in his chair, putting his feet up on the coffee table.  He did move it closer then put his feet up again.  "That's the only reason for it's position.  Eat."  Xander nodded, sitting down on the couch so he could eat.  "This is how it should be, Xander."  Xander nodded, ducking his head a bit.  "Don't be embarrassed."

"I'm not used to being around people who have real jobs."

"Construction is a real job.  It's simply physical labor instead of mental labor.  My job requires both."  He ate another bite.  He waved his fork and Xander started to eat like normal.  "Thought you had lost your touch?" he teased.  Xander shook his head.  "Good.  Then remember you're not the maid.  If I needed my house that clean, I'd ask Ryan for a recommendation."  Xander snickered, digging in again.  He watched him slowly relax and get more comfortable.  It was well past time to have had this talk.  Horatio looked at him for a minute.  "You went to get my dry cleaning?"

"They called twice today to remind you.  They were worried when you didn't."

He nodded, eating another bite.  "How much was it so I can pay you back?"  Xander gave him that confused look again.  "I'm not Anya, Xander.  I don't demand that you buy me things.  You've spent a lot of money around the house since you got here.  Food, the water bill, and my laundry being most of it because I know how much it usually runs me a week."  Xander blushed.  "Therefore I want receipts so I can pay you back.  We can split the costs of things like the groceries or the water bill if it's outrageous that month."

"I took the long bath."

"You may have but you didn't have the water running constantly during it," he pointed out.  "I've had whole nights in the tub when I was sore from an injury.  We can split those bills since you make a lot less than I do."  Xander nodded at that since his mouth was full.  "Good.  I'm still surprised how little you'll be making."

"It's that important piece of paper pay raise, Horatio.  I suck at school and you didn't."

"It's still low for an assistant.  Fortunately you'll get a performance based pay raise every six months.  As long as you can find the paperwork for that and give it to me," he admitted with a small smirk at Xander's gape.  Xander nodded.  "Good."

"How much did you expect me to make?"

"The only ones I know were making about forty thousand a year."

"No, those are the assistants of CEO types," Xander said, shuddering. "They've got to hide secrets and possibly bodies for that amount of money."

"Eric would do that job better," he teased, making Xander laugh.  It was a sound he liked.  "By the way, Ryan's foul mood came back.  Eric bought a test and put it in front of him in the break room after you left.  You started a bad trend for picking on Mr. Wolfe."

"He's the one with the mood swings."

"He is," he agreed.  "Calleigh giggled for over an hour about that.  Ryan had to slink off and explain it to Frank since he had gotten there in time to see Calleigh burst out laughing."  He ate another bite, waving his fork.  Xander went back to eating, smiling a bit.  "Alexx said if it came up positive she'd help him kill someone."

"Willow," Xander said seriously, then finished his dinner.  "Want more?"

"Please."  He let Xander get it for him.  "She can do that?"

"Probably.  If she can close a hellmouth she can probably at least make it seem that way."

"If she does, I'll let Alexx have her.  We'll sell tickets and popcorn."  Xander cackled, bringing back food.  "It will be a very fun match since Calleigh will be helping her."

"I'll be helping her so she doesn't try it on me."

"Again?" Horatio asked, giving him a look.

"Not yet."

"She did turn you into a dog?"

"A golden retriever for four days.  Giles yelled at her for attempting it because I could've gotten stuck but not for doing it to me."

"Have you ever wanted to bomb your town?"

"Yes and then I realize that if I bought that much explosive someone would notice and stop me.  Even knowing why."  He ate another bite.  "How was the gym?"

"Decent.  I needed it.  I'm getting fat."

"You are not."

"My pants are getting tighter.  People are starting to stare at me for the wrong reasons."

Xander looked at him.  "You haven't gained any weight, Horatio.  It's all muscle."  He shook his head, finishing his seconds.  "I need to take some of my first paycheck next week and go shopping."

"Next week?"

"That's what Gretchen said.  I called to make sure.  She has my time clock entries in the system for that payday.  So I'll get a small something."

"Good."  He smiled.  "We can do that.  That way you get closer to the dress code without it being too dressy or too tight."

"Please.  I don't want to draw someone.  Oh, who is that sneering brat?  I wanted to show her Buffy's picture and tell her she's weaker at it than Buffy is."

"Describe her."

"Not as blonde as Calleigh.  Tit patrol."

"I'll talk with her.  She did say she caught you staring."

"Hard not to when her button supposedly popped that day.  Even Frank did."

"That is true, he did.  Calleigh tastefully handed her a safety pin."  He finished up his seconds, putting the plate onto the coffeetable with a groan, then sitting back up. "I'll talk with her, Xander.  Has she said anything?"

"No, just sneered when she gave me a report for you earlier.  It was in the paperwork file."

"I saw it."  He smiled.  "Try not to look, even if she does pop another button conveniently in front of Eric."

"I didn't want to look then but it's hard not to since she's got a very bright tanline in the lights in the lab."

"I noticed."  He got a smirk.  "It was hard not to," he agreed.  "That sort of incident will not be happening again."

"No, today it was the high heels and the short skirt."

"I saw those as well.  I did have a talk with her about those."  Xander grinned at that.  "Good.  Now, do you jog?"

"Um, yeah, two miles every morning. Why?"

"When are you getting up?"


"You're not going to bed until midnight."

"I'm used to a lot less sleep thanks to patrolling and Anya."  He shrugged.  "It's normal."

"It's probably not healthy."

"I do fine."


Xander shrugged again, curling up a little bit.  "Now and then."

"I never hear you get up."

"I had to sneak out to jog on her.  She complained about her lack of beauty sleep."

"You needed better women in your life," Horatio told him.  "Beyond Dawn's mother."

"Joyce told me I needed to sleep more too.  I used to putter around her garden and weed it back in high school when I couldn't sleep.  I pulled two of her tulips the first year but she sat me down and showed me what they were so I quit picking on them."

"Are you getting up and going jogging every morning?"  He nodded.  "At three?"

"No, I do my other PT first.  My sit ups, push ups, and then I stretch before I go.  I get out there at four and come home after a mile up and back."

Horatio blinked.  "I've never heard you.  Usually it'd wake me up."

"Maybe it's where I'm your guide."

"Possibly.  Or maybe it's because you're better at sneaking around than I thought."  Xander grinned at that.  "You could wait and go with me," he offered.

"No thanks.  Running is quiet mind time for me.  Me and my music."

"You do know that's dangerous?"

"I also know that not a whole lot is going to take me out, Horatio.  Even at five in the morning."

"What's your time?"

"I think I'm doing a mile in twelve at the moment.  Not quite regulation time but I go slower on purpose.  More resistance for me for some reason."

Horatio nodded at that.  "If you'd wait until six, I'll drive you where I go.  It's safer to jog there."

"I don't want...."

"You're not a bother, Xander.  Really.  It's safer.  You can even run in the opposite direction so I don't intrude on your thinking time."

"Okay, I wouldn't mind that.   I can easily add more to my PT to make up for it or take a quiet shower instead."

"Sleep longer, Xander."

"I can't usually do that."


"I have tried.  For many years."  Horatio stared at him.  "I have."

"I see.  Do you want to talk about it?"


"That's fine then.  If you do, you can come to me."

"It doesn't help, Horatio.  I'd rather keep my personal demons to myself before I scare someone."  He got up.  "Need more water?"

"Please."  He let Xander get him more water, stopping him when he came back.  "I wouldn't be scared, Xander," he said quietly.  "You can talk to me."

"Talking's overrated.  I'm an action sort."  He grinned.  "Now, I've got my evening run.  I'll be back in about an hour?"

"You're going twice a day?"

"Yeah.  They said I could use the gym so I've went down to the treadmills.  No one else was down there.  The one officer asked but I told him I was your assistant and he said that was fine.  Especially since I beat his mile time."  He grinned.  "Didn't get to the treadmill today."  He went to change clothes, coming out in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, plus his sneakers and an i-Pod.  Horatio came out of his bedroom changed into sweats and sneakers.  "You don't have to."

"My pants don't fit, yes I do."  He drove him out the park he ran at, pointing at the trail. "It circles the park.  It's three miles long.  I do a complete circuit.  I'll meet you back here when I'm done?"  Xander nodded, getting out and turning on his music, heading off at a slow jog.  Horatio got out to start on his own path, using it as a test to see how long he could keep track of Xander for.  He almost panicked when he realized he was already out of range, but that was fine.  He knew he had a finite limit.  They had to test that someday soon.  He came back to find Xander using the hummer to do push ups on the side of it, shaking his head.  "I'll never do that."

"I left you a water inside."

"Thank you.  Are you nearly done?"

"Ten more," he grunted, going back to them.  He stood up after the last one, wiggling his arms.  "Sorry."

"That's fine.  How many did you do?"

"Um, about twenty minutes worth."  He looked back at the woman he had felt staring.  "How many did I do?"  She blushed and walked off.  "Thank you for keeping track of me for my boss."  He got into the hummer, using his t-shirt to wipe off the sweat.

Horatio got in, opening his water to take a drink.  "She wasn't the only appreciative one."

"I know.  I felt.  It's pitiful that with all the hotty women in Miami they have to stare at my butt to get warm."  Horatio popped him on the head.  "Hey, I'm not Dawn and you're not Jethro."

"That statement deserved  it.  You are young and attractive, Xander.  Of course they stare.  Now, let's go have ice cream."  Xander gave him an odd look.  "To replace a few of the calories we've burned."

"There's sugar and fat free good stuff in the freezer at home.  Tara called it good for you real ice cream."

"That'll do."  He headed home with him, going to make them both eat some ice cream.  Xander's clothes were still loose, even now.  He needed to fill them out a bit more.  Then maybe he'd find a nice person to date; one who wouldn't put up with his low self esteem either.  Not that Horatio was looking forward to sharing Xander with someone else.  That thought was very telling and one he'd think about tomorrow on his morning jog he decided.   He wasn't normally jealous, just possessive of his lovers.  Xander was his guide, not his lover.

"You're thinking too hard," Xander interrupted.  "You missed our street."

Horatio smiled at him.  "Payday's when?"

"Next week.  Same day as usual."

"We do need to get you some clothes that fit better.  Ryan said your shirt today looked like it came from a very fat person."

"I like them a bit baggy."

Horatio looked at him, shaking his head.  "You don't need to hide it, Xander."

"If I don't, I'll get another woman like Anya."

"Then we'll arrest her and get her the mental help she needs," Horatio said, turning the hummer around so he could take him home.  He made them both eat ice cream - it was good even if it was sugar and fat free - and then watched Xander head in for a shower.  Even his boxers were too big.  "Hand me down syndrome," he decided.  "Xander, we should take you shopping tonight," he called.

"I can't do that until payday.  I haven't found a good thrift shop yet."

Horatio came out after his shower, finding Xander back in his earlier jeans and t-shirt.  "I do owe you some money, Xander."  Xander opened his mouth.  "We settled that earlier," he said firmly.  "Put on shoes."  Xander sighed, putting his glass of soda back into the fridge and putting back on his sneakers.  "Good."  He walked him out.  "You could use some better running shoes too."   Xander gave him an odd look.  "They make sneakers that're padded specially for running.  I like mine, they fit well and they cushion my feet better."

"I use just any old sneakers."

"That can cause back and joint strain."

"Oh.  I didn't know that's why my knees hurt when I'm done."


"Okay, I'll let you show me."

"You'll let me get you a pair."

"You don't have to....."

Horatio popped him on the head.  "If you must, you can consider it me taking care of you, but I want you to have them, Xander.  So shut up.  We're going shopping."

"Yes, Horatio."  He slunk down some but let him drive them to the mall.  Horatio walked him inside Footlocker, letting him look at all the running shoes.  A referee-dressed saleswoman came over.  "He said I need running shoes.  I usually use the sidewalk and I do about two miles twice a day."

"Okay.  Any particular style?"  He shrugged, pointing at Horatio.  She smiled at him.

"I like the Reboks," he said.  "What're the blue and white ones?"

"Those are for people who run marathons, sir.  They've got the extra padding and the shocks in the heels."

"I'm used to wearing these," Xander told her.

She looked then nodded, going to get the Reboks.  She sat him down once she had them in his side, letting him walk around.  "You turn your feet in a bit."  She sat him down and got a different style, fitting those to him.  "Those'll help keep your feet flat on the ground instead of letting them roll.  You might get a bit of pain the first few days, depending on how long you've done that."  He walked around, looking a bit unhappy.  "Let's try the others that'll cure that."  She sat him down and tried the other pair.  "These are crosstrainers, but they're still good for running.  Indoor or out."  She let him walk, watching him smile.  She looked at Horatio, who nodded.  "Should he wear them out so he can break them in?"

"I'll do my old ones tonight and break them in tomorrow," Xander promised, smiling at her.  She smiled back, letting him box them up for her.  Horatio paid while Xander put on his old sneakers. They weren't *that* expensive.  More than his twenty-dollar Wal-Mart sneakers but they was speciality shoes.  He took the bag, following Horatio out with a wave for her. "Thank you."  Horatio led the way into a hipper store, getting an odd look.  "You shop here?"

"Eric shops here, I thought you might like to look here."

"Way hipper than I am, Horatio."

"Some things are universal," he pointed out.  Xander shrugged but let him find him a few pairs of pants that would fit with the dress code.  He even tried them on for him, coming out grimacing.  "They're the right size?"

"They're a bit tight in the waist."

"For sitting?"

"No than I'm used to."

"That means they fit, right?" he countered.  Xander gave him a look, hands on his hips.  "You're starting to pick up my mannerisms."  Xander huffed and went back into the changing room.  "If they fit you're getting those.  They looked good on you."

"They're still tighter than I'm used to and this black pair are obscene."

"They are not."  Xander came out, making him blink.  "Okay, they are," he agreed, finally seeing what the women did.  Xander slunk back into the dressing room, coming out in his usual pants, handing over the other things.  "You did look good in them.  Maybe for nights out?"

Xander gave him another odd look.  "I don't dance that well.  I'm not a club sort, Horatio."

"If you say so."  He walked him off after he had gotten those, including the black pants, and took him to find a few good shirts.  Because his weren't.  He even bought himself a few new shirts.  Xander gave his silk shirts an odd look.  "I look good in them."  Xander took one of them and handed him a different color, giving him a small grin before going to look at his usual size.  "Those are larger than you need.  They'll get in your way," he complained, coming over to get him shirts in the correct size.  He saw Calleigh and waved her in.  "He could use a female opinion."

"I was wondering if he had been sick recently," she admitted.

"I like my clothes a bit baggy, gives me room to move," Xander defended.

She patted him on the cheek with a smile.  "How do you expect to get a good girl when you dress like a slob?"   He frowned.  So she found a shirt and made him go try it on.  She looked at the shirts in Horatio's hands, taking two of them and making him go try them on too.  "You've gained muscle, Horatio."  He walked off shaking his head.  She handed them to the hovering salesman.  "We decided long ago to fix that problem if we ever got the chance.  Get him something he'll look fantastic in.  Something that'll make the criminals stare stupidly and blurt out confessions to his abs."  He nodded, going to do that, getting Xander shirts with the same criteria.  He came out and she smiled.  "That looks good on you.  A bit tight but nothing like some of Ryan's."

"I look like I'm selling myself," he complained.  "Expensively but still selling myself."  He looked at his chest.  He knew he had some muscles but this shirt made them stick out.  "I look like a freak."

"You look like a gym rat," she countered, spanking him.  He glared at her.  She quirked an eyebrow up.  "Do not make me get Speed in here."

"He'll think I look like a freak too," he shot back.

She sighed and looked around, then went out into the main mall, walking back with a young woman in a business suit.  "Xander, this woman is an assistant, just like you.  Go put on a real outfit, let her see if it's reasonable."  He pouted but did that, coming out in one of the new pairs of pants too.  She saw Horatio's look at him then looked at the assistant.  "Now, can he wear that reasonably as an assistant?"

"He can.  As long as he's comfortable sitting, bending, squatting, and fetching things in it," she agreed, staring at his body.  "The pants are a bit looser than most men wear these days.  The shirt fits right.  Can you type in them, dear?"  He nodded, pouting a bit.

"He's been wearing bulkier, loose clothes," Horatio told her.  "Calleigh, I will have to complain about mine.  I'm not Eric."

"Shut up, Horatio.  They need to stare at you and blurt out things stupidly so we can catch them.  Doesn't he look nice, Xander?"  Xander looked then nodded.  "Now, why do you think you don't?"

"I've got man breasts," he complained.  "I look like a freak."

"You look like you spend about three hours a day in the gym," the other assistant told him, giving him a very appreciative look.  "Remember, Xander, Miami is all about the prettier things in life.  Would your boss mind you wearing a shirt that showed off your dedication to your physical needs?"  He pointed at Horatio.  "Well?"

"I wouldn't care," he said, smiling at Xander.  "I told you they weren't too tight."

Xander sighed, going to try on the other clothes.  Someone had found him a blood red shirt to go with the new black pants so he came out with them.

The assistant blinked.  "I'd suggest dress shoes instead of sneakers, dear."  She scratched the side of her arm.  "I like that outfit.  It shows that you're young, you're active, you're cute in it, that you're generally a good boy."  She felt herself start to sweat.  "Get more like that.  That looks good, just change out the sneakers."  She smiled at Calleigh.  "I'm glad I could help.  It's important to help the young craft their own corporate image."  She smiled and walked out, memorizing the store for her husband.  He could use some clothes that looked like those.  Though he did need some time in the gym so they'd fit the same way.

Horatio smiled at Xander.  "See?  Change back so we can get those and then we'll look at dress shoes and sunglasses.  That way you don't fall down on the lab's image."

Xander gave him a look.  "I'm not that hip and cool."

"No one said you had to be, but your retinas will be fried if you don't have a good pair of sunglasses," Calleigh told him.  He sighed but went to change back, letting them all smile at his hiding clothes.  "I don't know why you hide that fantastic body you clearly do a lot of work to keep, Xander, but I want to kick the hind end of the reason.  Tell me which one it was and I'll gladly hurt them for you."   He shook his head quickly, nearly clinging to Horatio.  She smiled at Horatio.  "Do you need more help?"

"No, I'm fine.  Thank you, Calleigh."

"You're welcome," she said happily.  "I've got to do girl shopping."

Xander looked at her.  "I've spent a lot of time being drug around for that purpose.  Please don't ask me if the bras make you look bigger?" he begged.

She looked at him.  "I'm so going to smack around those former friends of yours."  She walked off shaking her head.  How could girls take a *boy* bra shopping?  It was a sacred female institution!

Horatio looked at him.  "I doubt she would.  Let's check out."  Xander nodded, letting him gather the things from the dressing room when he conveniently forgot some of them.  He checked them out, letting Xander hold his own bag.  A quick stop for plain black dress shoes and then the longer stop to find a decent pair of sunglasses.  Xander liked minimal ones, but he knew how bad the sun could be.  He got him the best pair for his face, then handed him the bottle of sunscreen with a pointed look.  They checked out and headed for the house.


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