Xander finished the last renovation on the house and smiled at his good deed.  It was late November but he was done!  It was all done.  He was so proud!  He took all the pictures he could, then went to do a happy dance outside.  That's when he noticed something was wrong.  "It's snow," he said, looking concerned. "Is it supposed to snow?"  He frowned, looking around the yard.  "I should cut wood or something."  He went to check his firewood supplies.  Almost nothing but he did have some spare lumber in the storage shed.  He brought that to the wood box, finding his power saw.  That was enough to cut those but he needed to do something about firewood in case the heater went out.  He wasn't sure if the heater was any good or not.  He found an old axe in the shed, looking at the blade.  "You need sharpened but I can do that."  He found his sharpening kit, sitting on the back porch to do the blade, then he went to find a few good trees.  Smaller would be better this time.  Less work.

He got two down after most of the morning's work.  He took a lunch break then went to drag them back to the house.  He chopped them on the back porch, putting the new pieces into the wood box.  Then he went to check supplies.  "I've got to do some stuff."  Xander headed to the study.  He had gotten smart and moved his accounts somewhere more tangible so he had access to it.  He realized he needed a few things.  A car or truck.  Supplies.  Someone to check the heater over.  Or at least a book on how to do it himself. He called the local cab company, grabbing his cards on the way out.  He made it outside and shivered.  "Shit, it's cold!"  He did the 'I'm freezing' dance until the cab showed up, diving into the back.  "Warmth," he said happily.  "I need to hit the bank please."

"Sure.  I can do that, Xander.  Not enjoying snow?  I know you said you're from southern California."

"The last time we had snow I went invisible."

"Okay."  He backed out of the driveway.  "Going grocery shopping?"

"After I find a car."

"Xander, truck," he said simply.  "Your road will get plowed last.  Your driveway has a small slope.  You'll need good traction and you'll want a truck."

"Okay, I can do a truck.  How long does it take firewood to dry?  Green wood smokes, I know that.  I tried that camping."

"A few weeks."  He saw the grimace.  "It'll be fine.  You have a heater, right?"

"I do but I'm not sure it'll work well enough.  I ran all the ducts and things."

"That's good.  You know, my brother-in-law works next to a heater place.  They can come check it for you."

"That might be nice," he agreed.  "Let me cut down a few more trees first."  That got a smile and a nod.  He paid the fare and got out, heading inside the bank.  "Hi."  The receptionist smiled.  "I need to talk to someone about the winter expenses."

"Mrs. Jackson is free.  Let me get her for you, Mr. Harris."  He grinned and nodded.  She went to check.  "Mrs. Jackson, Mr. Harris is here.  That guy who was fixing up the Palmer place," she said at the confused look.  "He needs to talk about winter expenses?"

"Sure, show him in."  She waved and Xander walked in.  "Are we thinking about applying for a loan, Mr. Harris?"

"I'm not sure if I need to or not," he admitted.  "I have money saved but I'm not sure how much exactly.  I need to get a truck.  I'm not sure what source my heater uses.  I need someone to look at it.  I need to cut more wood.  I need to lay in supplies too."

She held up a hand.  "Hold on.  You don't live that far in the boonies, sir."  He gave her a hopeful look.  "If I remember right, the old Palmer farm is far out but it'll be okay.  Calm down."  He took a deep breath.  "Okay.  Who did you go through for the realtor?"  He got into his wallet, finding her card.  "Let's call her, see if she knows your heater source."


She made the call for him.  "Hi, this is Mrs. Jackson at First National Bank. I have Mr. Harris in here....  She wanted to know how the renovations went."

"I finished this morning," he said proudly.  "I'll send her pictures when I get home."

"He said he's done as of this morning and he'll send you pictures when he gets home.  Actually, he was wondering if you knew what source the heater ran on.  He's in his first winter."  She listened and made notes.  "I can have him do that.  Thank you, ma'am.  You have a good day and many good sales."  She hung up.  "Your heater runs on propane.  I know for a fact you can order it from this place," she said, writing down another number.  "They also have someone who can come check your heater."

"The cab guy said his brother-in-law lived next to somewhere."

"It's probably the same place."  She slid it over.  "As for trucks, because you'll probably want one with how backwoods your road is, you can get one at the car lot up the street.  Let's see how much you have."  She got into his accounts by name and smiled.  "It looks like you've got a very healthy balance, Mr. Harris.  Propane won't be that expensive.  We're not supposed to have a horribly bad winter.  You said you've got wood burning stoves?"

"Two fireplaces in the original and one other one I put in.   I had someone come out to make sure they were okay."

"Good.  That's a good thing.  We can do all that."  She wrote down the balances for him, weathering the frown.  "That's in a CD.  It'll come out of holding in about a week or so if you wanted me to move it into your regular account."

"No, go ahead and put it in short term please.  That way it's closer if I need it."

"I can do that."  She made a note.  "Okay, now you have three accounts.  Do you want to consolidate?"

"Do you think I'll be okay with that much?"

"Your propane tank should probably run about three hundred to fill up, depending on the size of the tank.  If it's a big enough tank you won't need to fill it up twice this winter.  They can tell you that."  Xander nodded quickly.  "Good.  Now, as for supplies, just stock a normal pantry, Xander.  We don't get the really bad snows, the ones that trap you in the house for weeks on end. You might get trapped for a week until someone plows out your way but probably not longer than that and with a better truck probably not more than a few days."

He relaxed fully and smiled.  "Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Tell the guy at the car lot that I sent you to get a truck and tell him you live at the old Palmer farm."

"I thought it was the Henderson farm."

"She didn't last that long.  The Palmers lived there for about four generations.  Traditions like that are good but their house got condemned and taken down before it got sold."

"Wow.  Thank you."

"You're welcome.  Go get a truck, call the propane people today."  He nodded, shaking her hand and walking off with his papers.  She smiled at his back.  He was such a nice boy.  No matter what the local cops said about him being some sort of gun collector.

Xander walked onto the car lot, looking around.  Someone leaned out of the trailer.  "Mrs. Jackson at the bank said to come to you for a truck."

He smiled.  "I'm out of trucks, sir."

"I'm Xander Harris.  I live at the old Palmer farm."

"I've heard you've done some good work out there, son.  Let me look around to see what I've got.  Get in here out of the cold."  Xander walked into the trailer.  "How is the house looking?"

"I got finished this morning," he said proudly. "Then it started to snow.  I kinda panicked.  I'm from near LA.  I've seen snow once and it was a bad thing."

"I can understand that, son."  He called someone.  "Lou, it's Jacob.  I've got the owner of the old Palmer place here needing a good truck."  He listened then smiled at him.  "My brother Lou has one at his place in the next county over.  What sort?  Remember that old half-house way out in the middle of nowhere near the stream?  Where we go hunting?  He bought that place and fixed up the house.  I've heard it's real pretty."  Xander took out his phone, searching through it until he got to a during-construction picture.  "That's very nice.  Take out the original outer walls?"

"Yeah, after I got done last week.  I finished laying on the last piece of trim this morning.  It really takes two weeks to cure firewood?"

"It can," he agreed.  "How's that old trailer?"

"My friends at NCIS had to borrow it for a few hours for a witness they were protecting but we found an old skeleton out by there during a heavy rain.  Gibbs found some clippings about an old murder.  Do you know who it belonged to?"

"Yeah, but he's long gone now.  I'll let the Sheriff know so he can call him."  He listened to his brother.  "That'll work.  He's here now.  Sure, come on over.  Thanks, Lou."  He hung up.  "It'll take him about twenty.  He said it's got some engine noise but it's easily fixed.  It's got good tires...." he trailed off when he saw the confused look.  "Not a car guy too?"

"Does it run?"  Jacob nodded and smiled.  "Will it get me out of there if I get stuck and hurt myself trying to cook?"

"It should."

"Is it ugly?"

"He said a bit of rust but not too bad.  Again, easily fixed by someone competent.  Lou doesn't sell junky cars or trucks."

"Okay.  I trust you.  Most of the locals have been really nice and honest and all that."

"Good boy."  He smiled.  "You going to use the house as a reference this spring?"

"I am.  I know there's a few good construction crews around here.  I have the new house and the reference from my last boss."

"I hope you get one.  Any other things you have to do today?"

"Call the propane place to make sure I can use the tank before it gets filled."

"That's a good time to do it," he agreed.  He looked out.  "Looks like he drove pretty fast.  Doesn't look or sound too bad."  He walked Xander outside.  "Kid, buy a real jacket."  Xander looked confused.  "It'll only get colder, kid.  Do you even own sweaters?"

"Not yet.  I'm going to get a dog soon."

"Get something big that'll play," he said with a smile.  "Lou, this is Xander Harris, he's the guy who fixed up the old Palmer place."

"I drove out there a few weeks back, it was looking really nice."  Xander beamed at the compliment.  "Going to take down the outer walls?"

"Last week.  I put on the last piece of trim this morning.  Then I saw the snow and kinda panicked a bit."

"That's okay.  I did it my first winter on my own too."  He patted the truck.  "She's older but she's okay," he offered.  He let Xander into the cab, handing him the keys.  "She'll do you good for a long time if you treat her right.  She could use a tune up.  Her tires got changed a few months before she got sold.  The owner traded up to a Range Rover."

Xander ran a hand over the wood dash.  "She's good.  She runs okay?  Without the tune up?  I'm not much of a car guy."

"She does.  You'll probably want to change her fluids in the next few months.  You can do it at the same time.  She'll definitely let you run around for the next few weeks."  Xander grinned at that.  "Now, she's going pretty cheap because she's old.  Only two grand."

Xander ran a hand over the seat.  "Could use recovered too."  He got out and looked it over.  "The bed isn't covered with a liner?"

"No, not yet.  You can get that pretty cheap in the city," Jacob offered.  "I also noticed you've got a taillight out, Lou."

"Really?"  He went to look.  "Yeah, I guess I do.  Is Earl running his garage?"

"Yeah, still.  He's still not backed up either.  I can call him over if you want, Xander.  Then you can arrange for when it'll go in for that tune up."

"Okay.  Will it cost a lot?  I'm used to mechanics that charge nearly an arm and a leg."

"Nah, not Earl."  He called him.  An older man hobbled over.  "Hey, Earl, cold got your joints?"

"Again," he agreed.  "That's Tommy's old truck.  He taught his kids to drive on that."  He started the engine, then nodded before turning it off and walking around the truck.  "Rust'll need sanded and filled.  Tune up, fluids changed."  He kicked a tire.  "That one's a bit flat but it can be fixed easily."

"What about a bed liner?" Xander asked.

"You could do that," he agreed, looking at him.  "You're the young thing that knows that guy with the mustang."

"Tony, yeah.  He's with NCIS."

"Hmm.  Federal boys."  He nodded, looking it over again.  "What're you into?"

"Construction.  I'm applying around this spring."

"That'll work.  How's the house?"

"Done this morning," he said proudly.  "Now I've got to call the propane guys."

"That's Bertha's two sons.  They're good guys.  Other side of that mini-mart place, kid."  He nodded.  "Worth about nineteen hundred."

"I can do that," Lou agreed.

"Works for me.  How much for the repairs?" Xander asked.

"About three hundred probably.  Body work might run a bit higher.  If you go with a liner it definitely will."

"Okay."  He walked them into the office to sign the paperwork and let them call the bank since they couldn't run debit cards.  Xander went to get the check for them, bringing it back.  He got the title and filled it out.  Jacob said he could file it for him.  Then he went grocery shopping.  The super stores were nice for that.  The truck bed also let him get a chest freezer.   On the way back he stopped at the propane place and they said they could come out in the morning so he'd be okay.  Hopefully.  After a few hours of puttering he called Tony.  "Where's the pound?"  He smiled.  "Please.  I need a dog.  I'm bored.  I'm done," he said proudly.  "I've got the propane people coming tomorrow to make sure the heater's okay and to fill up the tank for me.  I did some stocking up.  I cut some trees up for firewood.  I know I've got a well...."  He frowned.  "Sure, I can do that.  Thank you."  He hung up and went to fuss a few more things, then he got into his truck and drove off.  The officer who stopped him on the way took the notice that he had just bought it that morning and gave him a warning so it was fine.  It took him a few lost turns but he did find the pound nearly at closing and walked in.  "Hi, I need a dog."

"For an apartment or house?" the keeper asked.

"House.  I have a huge house out in the middle of nowhere."

"Like sheepdogs?  I've got one that's out of time today at five."

"I don't care.  It's a dog.  I need a dog to play with."  She smiled, leading him into the back areas.  The dogs gave him such pitiful looks.  The cats were worse.  He whimpered.  She patted him on the arm and let the sheepdog out.  "Awww, you're a big fluffball!"  He got down to pet it.  "Boy or girl and how old?"

"Just about two years old.  He'll probably live to be about twelve."  Xander nodded, letting the dog lick his face.  "He likes you."

"I like him."  He grinned at her.  "Okay."  He stood up.  "Wanna come with me, Murphy?"  The dog barked and followed him.  Xander looked around.  "Will he be lonely when I start working construction this summer?"

"Maybe."  She let him look around, smiling at the little dog he found.  "She just came to us today, sir.  If you're interested we have a poodle that's running out of time tomorrow."  Xander shuddered.  "She's sweet."

"My mom had one she taunted me with."

"Sorry.  Let's see who else we have nearly gone."  She looked around.  "No, just the poodle that's going this week.  Now, we do have the cats if you like cats."

"I live in the woods, there'll probably be mice."  She smiled and showed him the ones they had running out of time.  "I hope the poodle finds someone."

"I do too.  She's very sweet."

"But I'd never let her nap on the bed with me."

"Good point.  She needs a family to love."

"I'm kinda gay," he said quietly.  "I think.  I don't know, I'm confused on that at the moment.  I love my guy but I used to like girls."  She patted him on the back.  "I'm sorry to dump that on you."

"It's all right."  She frowned at the other keeper when she walked a dog back.  "I thought he went home."

"He didn't like them."

"Does he and the sheepdog get along okay?" Xander asked.

"He's good with all dogs."  She let them sniff each other and the dog in her hands licked him.  "They're good."

"I'll take him home so Murphy won't get bored with just me to play with him," Xander said.  "I've got a new huge house.  I fixed it up and got done this morning.  Now it's time for a dog.  And maybe a cat."  He looked at the cats.  The keeper pointed out one long haired scruffy cat.  "You look like Speed does."  He pulled her out to look at her.  "Like dogs?"  He let the dogs sniff her.  The little dog that had been carried back barked and the cat hissed but didn't try to claw him.  "Will they get along?"

"They will," the keeper with him agreed.  "She's a big queen.  Especially of heads.  Her momma died."  She petted the cat.  "Or we've got a short hair if you'd rather only have one thing to brush."  She pointed at one.  "She's nearly gone too."

"She smells sick," Xander said, looking at her.  The keepers frowned but looked at her, and one found out that she did have a sore that was infected.  "Will that give her more time?"

"It will," she promised, smiling at him.  "Let's get the forms filled out.  "Come on, dogs."  They walked out with her.  The sheepdog only huffed when the little one jumped on his back to ride out.  "Lazy," she teased.

"Now and then a good, comfy pillow is nice," Xander said with a grin.  "How much?  Do you know a good vet out in the nearest West Virginia county?"

"I do.  We have a list of vets," she said, smiling at him.  She filled out the forms.  "Now, we'll send someone out in a few days to look over your house to make sure they're settled in well.  All right?"

"Okay."  He took the box carrier they had the cat in, then the leashes for the dogs.  "Come on, guys.  Out to the truck."  He got them into the truck, heading back to the house.  He stopped at the mini mart to get them food but that was fine.  He'd go real shopping again tomorrow.  He let the dogs into the house.  "Let me get the leashes off."  He took off the leashes and let them run.  "There you go.  Go sniff!"  He let the cat down, opening the carrier.  "There you go, Queen Scruffy."  She ran off, going to hide under the couch for now.  "That's fine.  We can handle that."  He went to check on the dogs, letting them outside for a few minutes.  They did their marking then came back in to investigate some more.  He settled in to read on the couch, starting a fire to keep warm.  The little dog hopped up into his lap.  The sheepdog laid on his feet.  The cat finally came out from under the couch and laid in front of the fireplace, glaring at them for daring to do things without her.  It was a home.  Finally!


Tony came over the next night, noticing that everything looked done from the bottom of the driveway.  He saw the truck and frowned.  "He bought a redneck truck?"  He parked beside it and got out, looking the truck over.  "Xander?"  He walked into the house, pausing when the dog came out barking fiercely.  "Whoa!  I'm a friend.  You'll like me soon enough.  I spoil dogs."  He let the dog sniff him.  "Xander?"

"Boys, that's Tony, leave Tony alone," he called from the kitchen.

Tony let both dogs sniff him then walked back that way.  "Sorry I didn't make it out last night.  We got called out at four-thirty to a robbery."  He gave him a hug.  "They're nice looking dogs."  He spotted the cat on top of the fridge.  "And a cat?"

"That's Queen Scruffy.  She reminds me of Speed."

"She does me too."  He grinned at Xander.  "Since I didn't make last night, are we good for tonight?"

"As long as it's cheap.  I've got to replace the heater.  It's going to be expensive."

"Use the stuff the DEA said you stole fairly."

"Even with that it's still expensive.  Do you know how much cable is to run out here?"

"A lot probably.   Want me to go over that income stuff with you?"

"I'm good at that.  I had the bank check the day I got the truck."

"I noticed the redneck truck."

Xander gave him a look.  "It'll get me out of here if I get snowed in and it carries groceries.  It runs okay."

Tony kissed him on the temple.  "I'm good with cars.  I can help you check that."

"Earl did.  He's got a garage."

"That's fine.  What did he say?"

"Some body rust.  A fluid change. A tune up."

"I'm yours all weekend so I can help you with that," he offered.

"I don't know anything about cars, Tony."

"Then it's something I can teach you," he teased.  Xander grinned back.  "Anything else need fixed?"

"I think the washer's ready to go.  It was smoking earlier."

"Yeah, that's an indication.  How much do you have left?  Without the money you stole?"

"A few dozen thousand."

Tony gave him a hug.  "You'll need a few grand to live on this winter.  How much is the new heater?"

"The propane guys said about six hundred at the cheapest.  I've got a contractor coming tomorrow to see since I've got ductwork in.  They can put in air conditioning at the same time."

"That's always a plus.  It can get warm and sultry during the summer.  He's coming on a Saturday?"

"Yeah.  They even give free estimates."

"Cool."  He grinned.  "Now, what else did you do?"


"Did you stack it or just pile it?"


"It'll dry better if you stack it."  He walked him out there to show him.  "This is how Gibbs does his."

"Where does he get wood?"

"I think he buys wood," he admitted.  Xander looked confused.  "Some people sell the firewood they cut.  It's about fifty bucks for a truck bed full.  You can find them in the classifieds or you can keep cutting your own.  These don't look too bad."

"Can we bring some in to do a fire?"

"Sure."  He gave Xander some of the dry stuff, finishing the rest of the stacking.  The dogs came to help and he smiled.  "Hi, you two.  What's their names?" he called.

"The big one is Murphy, the little one is Roger."

"Hi, Murphy and Roger."  He petted them both, watching them run to anoint some bushes, then head back inside.  "I know, it's chilly."  He finished up and headed inside too, finding Xander warming himself in front of the fireplace.  "Why aren't you wearing a sweater?"

"I don't have any."

"Put the DEA money into a regular account, Xander."  Xander shook his head.  "Why not?"

"Because they might use it to track me."

"No, they said they weren't.  They told me they weren't.  Go ahead."  Xander nodded, sitting down at his laptop to do that.  "Have you been living in here?"

"The heater doesn't make the bedroom very warm."

"Where's your thermostat?"  Xander shrugged.  "Okay.  Let me find that.  It might help."  He went to find it, finding it in the kitchen and another upstairs.  He set them both at seventy and smiled when the heater came on.  "That's better."  He came back down, finding Xander curled up on the couch.  He sat with him, letting him get warm.  "There you go.  It'll be warm soon."  Xander grinned at him.  "You still need some winter clothes."

"I know.  I got myself a new gift card from it."

"Congrats.  Where do we have to go to get it?"

"Western Union."

"We can find one of those too.  Get your wallet and stuff."

"Can we get more dog and cat food?"

"Of course."  He petted the sheepdog when he came over, letting him get under the blanket for now.  "You nap, guys.  We'll be back soon.  Let me make Xander buy some clothes."  He called Gibbs.  "I'm taking Xander shopping since he's never been in winter.  Well, boss, he did want to ask you about firewood stuff.  Plus some other stuff.  Heading to a Western Union and then clothes shopping.  He's wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  He doesn't have a sweater and his jacket is for spring.  Sure.  Meet you there.  If she wants to come she can," he agreed.  He hung up.  "Gibbs and Kate will meet us at the mall she likes in an hour, Xander.  That'll give us time to pick up the money and head there."  He nodded, letting Tony lock the door.  "Got the keys?"

"Yup."  He held them up.  "Want to take the truck?"

"Not today.  Let's tune it up tomorrow first.  It's supposed to be warmer."   He let him into the mustang.  "Did you get with anyone about those other weapons?"

"Yeah.  I've got someone coming tomorrow to look at them.  That way I can afford a really good heater if I put in the wrong ducts or something."

"Good."  He got in to drive, taking them to the nearest super place so he could pick up the money transfer.  Then they went to the mall.  Gibbs was being impatient.  "Sorry, he had to pick up dog and cat food, boss."

"That's fine.  Dog and cat?" he asked Xander.  Who produced pictures.  "They're cute."

"Murphy's the sheepdog.  Roger's the little one.  Queen Scruffy is the cat.  She kinda reminds me of Speed.  Hi, Kate," he said when he felt her sneaking up on him.  Tony snickered so he looked.  "It's very hard to do that to me.  So, Tony said I needed sweaters and a new jacket."

"You do, kid," Gibbs agreed, walking him inside.  "How many fireplaces do you have?"

"Three now.  I had two but I put another one in.  I even had the fireplace guys come check it for me.  It works really well.  I've been living in the living room because of it."

"I know where you can get some decent wood.  We'll get you a few truckloads of it this weekend.  How's the construction going?"

"Done," he said happily.  "Now I can start planning the back porch."  Tony snickered. "I'll need one if we're going to have cookouts and things during the summer."

"True.  We will," Tony agreed.  He grinned at Kate.  "The place had one of those older half-houses and he expanded it to a full house with a great view and a wonderful layout. I got to help with the kitchen stuff."

"Plus the roof and a few other walls," Xander reminded him.

"True, I did help him put on the roof and the outer walls.  Speed did more than I did."

"He was there longer," Gibbs reminded him.  "How is he doing, kid?"

"He's okay.  He said work's been a pain recently but he's fine.  He's talking about taking another long weekend up here soon if he can find a cheap flight.  I offered to ask Willow but he calls that way 'missing gut air'.  He's not very fond of that way.   I haven't told him about the pets yet but I'm sure he'll like them.  Even Queen Scruffy.  She likes to watch me cook too, which he helped me with."

"We'll write him tonight, Xander," Tony promised.  "Boss, sweater sale," he said, pointing at a store they passed.

"Expensive sweaters for no reason," he said patiently.  "Frou-frou ones too, DiNozzo. Like your blue one."

"I like that one."

"It looks like a girlfriend bought it for you," Kate teased.

"One did," he agreed.  "But it's very comfortable.  Sears sells clothes?"

"They do," Gibbs said patiently.  "They also sell washers since he said his is broke.  Plus they'd deliver the washer and haul off the old one."

"Wow," Xander said.  "Okay."

"Gibbs, let me," Kate said, leading Xander away from the tools.  Tony got to approve while Gibbs and Xander talked about the new construction.  "What about a garage?" she asked at one point, handing him a stack.  "Go try them on."  He nodded, going to do that.  She watched him go then looked at Tony.  "He's used to girlfriends doing his shopping?"

"His former girls who were just friends drug him when *they* went shopping," Tony corrected.  "His girlfriends never would've spent the money on him.  He giggled when Speed asked him who had bought one of his t-shirts."  Xander came out and he shook his head.  "Next size up, Kate.  That's too tight."

She looked then nodded.  "It is.  But you're very nicely built, Xander."  She took the stack back and went to get him the next size up, letting him and Gibbs talk about garage plans.  That was something practical that he could do over the winter.  She bought back more this time, handing them over to him.  "There."  He sighed but went to try them on.  "He'll need a jacket too," she reminded them.  Gibbs pointed at a rack but she snorted and shook her head.  "Not even close, Gibbs."  She went to look at the other styles, nodding when Xander came out in her first choice.  "I like that one.  If it itches, it'll be better when you wash it."

Tony waded in, separating out some of the sweaters for him with a small wink.  Xander relaxed again.  "We'll hit the other places too."  Xander finished trying things on and let Kate railroad him into a new pair of socks too but then he checked out with a longing look toward the electronics section.  "After we get you wintereized.  I've got a better place to find a tv."

"Sure."  Xander let himself be pulled into American Eagle but he balked at the prices.  "Way too expensive."

"There's a sale rack," Kate assured him, walking him over to it.  She found something she liked but it was still too expensive.  So she let Tony drag him into the store having the sweater sale.  "See, frou-frou cable knit sweaters, Tony."

"Not all of them, Kate," he pointed out, leading him to one section.  "See, nice, plain, comfy, and flannel shirts for over your t-shirts.  All on good sale."  Xander picked through what was there, with Kate's help, and found a few more things.

Gibbs handed over a jacket, earning a smile for the simple look it had.  "You should see him fuss over his own clothes," he told Xander.

"I have, it's kinda cute."  Gibbs smirked but he shrugged.  "It is."  He went to try them all on, getting more approving looks and these were softer so he found a few more he liked, even if they were kind of expensive, even with the sale.   Tony was right he could splurge a little bit tonight.  "Washer?"


After they checked out there they went back to Sears to find him something, which wasn't that hard.  The delivery guys had to get precise instructions because his road didn't have a name marked on it.  But he was getting used to that.  They hit a few more stores, picking up a lot of socks, a new set of sneakers and boots for winter because his work boots weren't warm, and then some cocoa because Xander had forgotten it.  Then Tony let Xander stuff the trunk with things and they went to dinner as a group.  Kate decided she liked Xander, he was a goofball, but she didn't want to date him.  She'd heard from McGee about some of his girlfriends.  It was good he was going gay, it was safer for the world if he went with guys, and she would support his right to be gay before his next girlfriend killed everyone around him.  She and Gibbs waved as they left to go tv and DVD shopping.

"Think he'll hibernate?" Kate asked.

"I did my first winter on my own," he admitted.  "There's still stuff he can do around the house.  I'm wondering how Tony's getting the mustang out of there some days."

"Me too.  He said he lives down a barely paved road."

"He does," Gibbs agreed.  "We kept a witness out in his woods for a while.  That reminds me.  I wanted to check on that body that they found out there."  He walked off.  "Night, Kate."

"Night, Gibbs."  She went back to her own car, heading home to a warm soak with bubbles and a few happy dreams about picking on Tony because he couldn't walk right.


Xander dropped his knife when the all news channel started on about a cop being shot in Miami, turning to stare at the mini-tv Tony had him put into the kitchen.  "No," he said, staring in horror.  He grabbed the counter, holding on while they said who it was and why he had been shot.  "Shit!"  He called Speed's cellphone.  "Speed, it's Xander.  Please be okay.  Pretty please be okay?  I know I did the spell to make you okay."  He hung up and waited, then called again.  "Hi, how is he?  I heard it on the news.  Xander.  Oh, you're Alexx.  Is he okay?  Please let him be okay?"  He sighed and went limp.  Then he moved the pan off the heat since it was burning.  "I can be down there tonight," he promised.  "When will they let him go home?  Because I've got a great big house he can come stay in while he recuperates.  He helped me build some of it, of course he's welcome.  Yeah, I'm that Xander.  Please."  She asked a nurse if there was a new update, getting a short one.  He listened and relaxed.  "Thank you, Alexx.  I can be down there by early tomorrow.  Yeah, I can fly down.  Thank you."  He hung up and went to make travel arrangements, calling Tony on the way.  "Speed got shot.  He's in surgery.  I'm going down there.  Can you pop around to feed the pets?  Thanks," he said, leaving the message on his voicemail.  He was probably on a scene too.  He went back to finish dinner once the flight was arranged.  He had two hours to eat before he had to leave.


Xander walked into Speed's room, finding him awake, kind of.  "Hi," he said quietly.

"Hi," he said back, waving him over.  Xander pounced him to hug him.  "I'm okay."  He kissed him on the temple.  "What did you do?" he asked quietly when he didn't let go.

"I did a protection spell."

"It's probably what slowed the bleeding," he offered. "I'm not mad, Xander."  Xander looked at him.  "I'm not."  He smiled at him.  Xander sniffled.  "None of that.  I'll be fine."

"You got shot."

"It's an occupational hazard.  My gun jammed for some reason."

"Did yo clean it?"


"Huh."  He kissed him on the forehead.  "You can come up to recuperate, you know that, right?"

"I do.  I'm planning on spending some of it with you.  I figure walks in the snow would be good for physical therapy."  Xander smiled at that.   "Off the bed, I hear the nurse."  Xander shifted to the foot of the bed, making him smile.  "Thanks.  I'll get out soon."

"They won't keep you for weeks?"

"Nah.  They were saying days but I've got months of PT coming up."

"Not like I'm doing anything this winter."

"Good point."  He smiled at the nurse when she came in.  "My friend Xander."

"You warned me about him.  He can go home in a few days, young man."

"Okay.  Will he be able to fly?"

"He will be."  She checked Speed over, making notes in his chart.  "I see you can have jell- o for breakfast.  We have strawberry, orange, and green."

"Orange.  It's the least nasty."  She nodded, walking off.  "Please let me have real food when we get home?"

"Of course you can," Xander promised.  He smiled at the woman coming in.  "Hi."

"Hi again.  You made good time."

"It's not that long of a flight.  I'm only in DC now."  He patted Speed's foot again.  "Did you want to come right up?"

"I should probably give them a few days to fuss, Xander.  Alexx will complain if I don't."

"It's up to you but if you ride the bike up I'll have to rig up a tarp for it.  We've got snow."

"I'm sure you do.  Did you remember to finally get a car?"

"I got an older, shortbed pickup.  Tony calls it a redneck truck."  Speed smiled at that.  "You can even help me plan the garage."

"I can do that," he agreed, shifting some.  Xander helped him.  "Thanks."

"Been injured before.  It sucks monkey balls."  Speed burst out laughing at that, holding his shoulder.

Calleigh looked at him.  "You're very unique."

"Yes I am," he agreed happily.  "Aren't you glad?"

"Yup."  She kissed Speed on the forehead.  "I don't know why it malfunctioned.  It's clean.  It won't fire."

"Pin?" Xander suggested.  "I have one that's a bit worn on one side so the top's at an angle and it won't fire right."

"That could be."  She stroked over his head.  "You're a good friend for him, Xander."  She smiled at Speed again.  "Need anything?"

"Real food?"

"Soon enough," she promised.  "Alexx is bringing you some lunch."  He smiled.  "Good boy."  She patted him again.  "We'll mob you at lunch but I'm on today so I've got to go back.  You behave.  Let Xander fuss for a while for us."  She smiled at him.  "I'll expect him to be safe while he's up there."

"Of course he'll be safe."

"Good."  She walked off, heading back to work.  She ran into Eric, Alexx, and Horatio arguing over who got lunch.  "Xander's in and sitting on the foot of his bed to make him giggle," she announced.

"I haven't met this boy yet, so I'm going," Alexx assured them, heading off.

Eric smirked at her.  "Did he ignore you again?"

"No, he's calmed down since the last time we saw him.  He thought it might be a partially filed pin.  He said one of his has that problem."  Horatio nodded at that.  "Tim said he's spending some of his recovery in DC with him."

"That's fine," Horatio agreed.  "Tim was happy to have helped him build his home.  I'm sure Xander wants to let him into it."

"You do know...." Eric started.  Horatio nodded, making him beam.  "Good.  He said he's a nice, overprotective, fussy boy."

"He is that," Calleigh agreed.   "I did say you two would be in at lunch as well to meet him.  Speed said he'd have to spend the first few days down here due to Alexx fussing over him but then he'd go up."

"That we can do," Horatio agreed.


Xander walked back into his house, pouncing Tony for a hug.  "He'll be okay."

"Good."  He looked at him.  "Kate got shot, Xander."  Xander pulled back.  "Did you do anything to protect me?"

"Yeah, but it wouldn't get her shot.  It would've helped you if you had gotten shot.  Given you enough time for help to get there and things."

"Okay.  That's all you did?"  Xander nodded slowly, staring at him.  "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I'm sure.  Why?  Did someone else say I did?"

"No, just wondering."

Xander gave him another hug.  "I'm sorry you lost her, Tony.  I know she was special to you."  He patted him so he let go.  "I'm sorry you're mad at me too."   He looked over, finding Gibbs coming up the stairs.  "It's open."  He walked in after kicking the snow off.  "I just heard, Gibbs.  I'm sorry."

"Not your fault, kid.  He was aiming for Kate, DiNozzo.  Ari left all sorts of clues he was aiming for Kate."  Tony slumped.  "Whatever you think he did to you didn't cause it."

"I only did a protection spell.  On Speed it slowed the blood flow so EMS had time to get to him."

"That's a useful one," Gibbs agreed, patting him on the shoulder, getting a hug.  "Thanks, kid."  He looked at Tony.  "It's not his fault, DiNozzo.  The one person at fault we're going to hunt down and find."

"Yes, I am," he agreed.  "Xander, can I borrow you?"

"McGee and Abby are working on it," Gibbs reminded him.

"There's dozens of ways of hacking, Gibbs.  Different languages, different programs, all that stuff.  If I can help I will," Xander promised.  He led them into the study, tossing his jacket on a chair and taking off his boots.  "Toss those out in the hall for me please?"  Gibbs did that while he booted up his laptop and logged in under his hacker identity.  "What's his name?"  Tony wrote it out.  "Okay.  Hmm.  Intelligence?"

"Former Mossad.  Turned traitor to them," Tony said quietly, starting to pace.

Xander got to work tracing him.  "He's out of the country," he said a few minutes later.  He sent out an alert saying he wanted information on this guy, that he had fucked with a very close friend.  He got back some and printed it off for them, then got to work finding him.  "Hmm.  We have a trust."  He let Gibbs see.  "That's the same him, right?"

"It is," he agreed, reading it over.  "I'll be damned."  He let Xander get back to work while he watched, smiling at where he was getting into.  "Interpol?"

"It's a well-known back door but they've got a sub department in there that could help."  He got into someone's email, sending it to the owner.  Then he sat back and waited.  He got a reply through the same way and smiled, answering it back.  They got the dossier they needed, including international contacts.  Xander printed it and handed it over.  "For you.  Now, let me go one other place.  He sent a thank you email and said if they found anything else to please contact Gibbs and gave his email address.  He logged out of that system, totally, and out of his computer then back in under the same alias.  That way if someone was tracking him it was broken.  He reset his ISP number, which took about five minutes, then hit another area.  This was nice.  Very nice.  He got into the game and made his character wander over to another one.  He typed in a simple 'hi, I'm Jeeves'.  The character snorted and he did something to the character, getting some attention.

A few other hackers pounced him and he got free, making his RP character smile and tell them what he was doing there.  Usually he only joined this game when he needed something huge from the other hackers.  They pointed him at the right person so he walked his character over there, waking her character up.  He got into a conversation with her, ending up in a private chat area to see what he really wanted.  He told her, she agreed it was for a good cause since he was a terrorist, and she promised to send the hackers at NCIS information.  He gave McGee's RP address, that way it was safer and she agreed to send it to him there.  He thanked her, cracked a joke, making her walk off shaking her head, but he exited the game and looked at Gibbs.  "McGee's getting something from her.  It might take her a few hours.  She's an international hacker, over in Israel.  She's got a lot on him or so she said.  I don't know how much is duplicate."

"That's fine, I can accept duplicate information."

"Good.  Tell McGee to log into his elf lord persona."

"I can do that too," Tony offered.  He called him.  "McGee, Xander got someone to send Elf Lord Vargas information on Ari."  He smiled.  "A hacker from Israel.  Thanks."  He hung up.  "He'll stay logged in but idle over there.  Boss, the director wants you."

"I'm going.  Thanks, kid."

"Welcome.  Do you need Tony or can I make him dinner?  He looks like he hasn't eaten or slept in a few days."

"Go ahead and make him dinner.  DiNozzo, oh-seven-hundred, sharp," he ordered.  Tony nodded. "Good."  He took the information out to his car, heading back to the office to see if McGee had anything for him yet.  They had some more information, mostly what was in the official databases.  It went well with the Interpol file.

"I'm not really hungry, Xander."

Xander came over and pulled him up, forcing him into the kitchen.  "Yes you are.  Where are the dogs?"

"Outside on the run."  He opened the back door, letting them inside.  "There you go, boys.  Daddy's home."  They bounced and loved on Xander until he wore them out, then went to nap in front of the fireplace.  "They were out for about thirty minutes.  I didn't want our fight to get in the way."

Xander hugged him again.  "If I had known I would've guarded her too, Tony."

"Can you guard the others and Abby?"

"I need hair."  Tony nodded, relaxing against him.  "I'm sorry you lost her," he said gently.  Tony sniffled.  "Let it go, baby.  I'm here.  Let it go."  Tony let it go, clinging to him for a while.  Xander got him onto the couch when he was done, letting Murphy nap on his legs for him.  Then he went to make him dinner.  Something soothing.  Something nice.  Something he wouldn't burn.


Speed got out of the truck, looking at the house.  "This is better than the pictures, Xander.  It's really good work."

"Thanks."  He smiled and let him inside, letting the dogs bounce them both.  "Easy on Speed, boys.  He's got boo-boos."  Murphy barked.  "I know, you licked my last one for me.  Thank you, you're very helpful," he said, scratching his head.

Speed smiled at the dogs.  "They're good looking dogs."  He petted them both, letting Xander lead him to the couch.  "Hey, Tony."

"Hey," he said weakly.  "Sorry, it's been a bad week."

"What happened?"


"I heard, man. I'm sorry."  He gave him a one-armed hug.  Tony gave him a squeeze.  "It'll get better in time."

"I hope so."  He let Roger into his lap, petting the little mutt.  "He's very comforting.  He even tried it on Gibbs."  Speed smiled and Xander finished fixing up the couch for him, letting him lay down.  "You're in for it now."

"I was at home too.  Alexx is a world class fusser."

"Good.  It'll mean less fussing over me," he said.  Xander stuck his tongue out but went to get them both cups of cocoa.  "How long you in for?"

"A few weeks."  He looked at him.  "Like I told him, Tony, we're not exclusive.  Miami is too far away for bootie calls."

"Yeah but if you're here that's poaching."

"Not really.  I'm easy about that stuff."  He accepted his cup of cocoa.  "Thanks, Xander.  Cuddle up with me?"  Xander cuddled up around him, holding him for now.  He sipped his cocoa, letting the warmth fill him, letting the chocolate soothe him, and letting him drift back off to sleep.  He was doing a lot of that since he got out of the hospital.  Stupid drugs.

Tony smiled at Xander.  "He'll be fine.  That's the drugs making him nap.  They do to me too." He finished his cocoa.  "The new director's in today."

"I'm sorry.  Want me to have her eaten?"

Tony looked at him. "Don't tempt me, Xander.  Please."  He took a picture of the cuteness.  "Abby wanted to meet him."

"That's fine.  If and when he's ready to go out."  He gave Speed a squeeze.  "It'll be okay."

"Of course it will be," Tony agreed, smiling at him.  It was funny, he hadn't realized Xander would need comforting.  He always seemed like a rock to build a foundation from.  "He'll be fine, Xander," he assured him.  "He'll get back to work and all that."  He saw the extra squeeze.  "If he wants to you can't make him not go."

"I know.  I'm...."

"Worried," Tony agreed.  "I am too.  It's not often that this stuff happens."

"I know but I want to steal all his stuff so he has to stay up here.  Where he's safer."

Speed blinked at him.  "If you do, the blue and green t-shirt is Eric's.  You'll also have to have the garage done for my Ducatti."  Xander smiled at that.  "It's a normal worry and we'll work through it together, Xander.  Can I maybe breathe?"  Xander let go slightly.  "Thanks."  He yawned at Tony.  "It's normal."

"I know.  The same as yours are.  I spent a long time worrying if I could or should go back to work after the plague hit me."  Speed frowned at him.  "Got sent to the office.  I'm the lucky guy who opened the envelope.  My own fault."

"Better you than someone who wouldn't have survived it," Xander offered.

"True.  McGee might not have survived it."  He smiled a bit.  "It'll be okay."

"If you say so."

"I do.  He lived, it'll be fine, Xander."


Speed looked at him.  "I'm sure it'll be fine, Xander.  Really.  I've got a good, long while before I'm in the field.  The physical therapist I talked to up here said the same thing.  I've got months before I'm going to be ready."  Xander nodded, relaxing again.  "Good boy.  Now, lunch?"

"We can do lunch."  He climbed off Speed, going to find food.   "Tony, did you go grocery shopping?"

"Yeah.  You were out of milk."  He looked at Speed.  He nodded and Speed went in there to help.  Xander had to see he wasn't helpless or he'd be tied to the bed soon.  Not that it wasn't a fun mental image.  Tony smacked himself.  "Not now, DiNozzo."  He called the office.  "It's me, boss.  Speed's here, Xander's back, need me yet?"  He grimaced.  "You sure?"  He nodded. "Okay."  He hung up.  "Xander, you're supposed to be making me take a three-day weekend on orders of the new director.  They're all getting one."

Xander came out to look at him.  "Funeral's when?"


"Then we'll go."  Tony nodded, giving him a hug.  "Come on.  You need to eat too."  He hauled him up and into the kitchen, finding Speed staring at the cat.  "That's Queen Scruffy.  She reminds me of you."

Speed grinned at the cat.  "He's got good taste, huh?"  The cat yawned and went back to sleep in *her* spot on top of the fridge.  "I've got the junior version of her at home.  Calleigh's watching her for me right now."

"We had a squirrel looking for warmth and she pounced it like it was the mot fun toy ever," Tony told him.  That got a laugh and Speed petted his cat.  Then he washed his hands and got back to work on the sandwiches. Tony came over to help, letting Xander watch them this time.  It was good how they fussed over each other.


Tony woke up panting, sweat dripping down his back.  "Nightmares too?" Speed asked from the doorway.  Tony nodded, looking at him.  "He told me.  If you want he can cuddle you too."

"I don't want to get between you guys, Speed."

Speed leaned on the door.  "While that's a hot image, all I'm offering is cuddles, Tony.  I've got my nightmares, Xander's already had a few of his.  This way we're all cuddled so we can fight each others'.  Deal?"  Tony nodded, getting up and following him back to the master suite.  He climbed in on Xander's other side, getting a snuffle then Xander clung to Speed while Tony got Xander's back.  "He's good at that," he said quietly.

"Very. Thanks."

"Welcome.  Nap, Tony.  It'll be a long day tomorrow."  Tony nodded, closing his eyes and drifting off again.  Speed smiled, then snuggled into the warm arms around him, going back to sleep as well.  Neither of them woke when Xander did, but he only hummed and went back to sleep since Tony was cuddling and Speed was in his arms.


Xander woke up, and felt something familiar.  Then he realized that he was holding someone.  He blinked at the person in his arms, Tony, then looked over his shoulder.  Speed.  "Huh," he said quietly.  He considered it then decided it felt good.   He felt rested, more than usual, and it felt good.  He wiggled his butt back to make Speed swat him.  Xander smiled back at him.  "Morning."

"Morning," he agreed sleepily, cuddling up to his back.  "He looks good being held by you."

"So do you."  Speed grinned.  "We're apparently cute together."

"We are," Tony mumbled.  "Sleep now.  Molest you later."

Xander kissed him on the head.  "We'll see."  Tony bit him.  "Ow."  He rubbed the spot, getting a kiss to his shoulder from his lover.  "Thanks, baby."

"Welcome."  He kissed him for real this time, having to lean over to do it.  "I'm going to leave that up to you, Xander."  Xander gave him a confused look.  "I'm sure you two have cuddled."  Xander slowly shook his head.  "I gave you permission."

"He likes girls."

"Move your leg.  Is he hard?"  Xander did that then nodded quickly.  "Then he's not turned off by you holding him."  He took another kiss.  "We'll work that out later.  For right now, the cuddles are too good to give up.  When do we have to get up?"


Speed looked at the clock.  "Half an hour.  Good."  He yawned and closed his eyes.  "Nap again, Xander.  Think later.  You're thinking too loud."

"That's because I'm stuck in the smutty mental places."  Speed smiled. "They're definitely not scary mental places but I can't seem to get ....."  Tony kissed him, making him moan and shut up.  "Sorry."  Tony snuggled in again, going back into full sleep.  Xander let himself drift on those images.  When the alarm went off Tony groaned but Xander kissed him on the forehead.  "Shower, Tony," he said quietly.  "You have to get up."  Tony blinked at him then smiled, making him smile back.  "You do."

"I know.  Comfy."  He slapped the snooze button then put his head back down, finding Speed's hand.  "Hi to you too.  Thank you for fighting the nightmares."

"I'm good at fighting evil things," Xander reminded him gently, stroking through his hair. "You should shower."

"I should."  He yawned and took a gentle kiss.  "I'll start breakfast."

"Just coffee, Tony.  I'm not sure we'll be able to handle food today."  Tony's face fell and he hugged him.  "We're here for you," he reminded him.  "We're going with you."  Tony nodded, slipping out of bed.  Xander turned over, waking Speed back up.  "Morning."

"Morning again.  Go help Tony, Xander.  He needs the comfort."  Xander started to look confused again.  "Please?"  Xander nodded, going into the bathroom to help Tony in the shower. Speed got up to start coffee, hearing Tony questioning him.  "I sent him," he called before leaving the bedroom.  Murphy got up, sniffling his legs.  "Hey, guys."  He let them out the back door.  "Come right back."  He filled the food bowls and both dogs ran back inside nearly immediately.  He shut the door and fed the cat, moving Roger's nose out of her bowl.  "Morning, Queen Scruffy."  He gave her a scratch too, then he found the coffee.  He grabbed the water filter pitcher from the fridge.  The water was a bit slow coming this morning but that was fine.  He knew about wells.  He finally got the coffee started and looked around then at Tony when he came in.  "Well's getting low on water."

"He can fix that."  He gave him a hug.  "Thank you for lending me Xander."

"You needed him, Tony.  He's good at comforting others."  Tony nodded, letting him go.  "Think you want food?"

"No," he admitted.  "He was right about that."  He looked around, scratching Murphy's head when it nudged his hand.  "Hi, guys."

"Take him with you, Tony, I'll make a comforting lunch," Speed offered.  Tony smiled and nodded.  "Waffles?"

"I like waffles."  He looked Xander over when he came in.  "Where were you hiding a good suit?"

"I asked Cordelia to pick one out for me."  He smoothed down the lapels.  "I don't like it but I can handle it."  He gave Tony another squeeze.  "We need a lint roller."  Speed found it and handed it over. "Thanks."

"Welcome.  I'll do lunch for when you guys come back."  They nodded, doing the lint rolling for each other, then took coffee with them.  Though, Xander got an extra travel mug.  Speed smiled at that gesture.  He was sure Gibbs would need it too.  He checked the supplies in the kitchen, wondering why Xander had bought one of nearly everything in the grocery store.  He found everything he needed for waffles, setting out things.  He got some of his own coffee, going to put on clothes so he could let the dogs out again.  They liked to romp in the snow for a little while.  Putting them on the run lines was easy enough and a shower afterward was perfect.


Xander walked up to Gibbs, giving him a one-armed, manly hug, then the coffee cup.  He stepped back and followed Tony into the church.

Gibbs had to smile, taking a sip of the coffee.  "Speed must've done the coffee."  He calmed himself, nodding at Kate's parents.  "I'm sorry."

"Did you get him?" her mother asked.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Good."  She patted him.  "Who was the young man?"

"That was Xander.  He's a friend that Tony introduced to her."

"She mentioned him."  She gave him a gentle smile.  "Bring in the coffee, Jethro.  She said you were better with it."  She walked her husband inside.  "Boys," she said quietly.  Tony hopped up to hug her.  "It's all right, Tony.  We know you couldn't have protected her."  She patted him on the cheek.  "Sit, dear."  He sat down.  "Xander, it's nice to meet you.  She told us she had met you recently."

"I'm sorry you lost her so soon, ma'am," Xander said, taking her hand to squeeze.  "If I can do anything to help, let us know."

"I will, boys."  She walked to her seat, sitting with her husband's help.  He sat beside her, taking her hand to hold.  "This is why I didn't want her to join the Secret Service," she whispered, not looking at the casket.

Tony looked at Xander, taking his hand to squeeze.  "It'll be okay," Xander reminded him gently.  "Remember, the dead can hear your thoughts.  She's probably off yelling at you somewhere."

Tony nodded.  "Probably."  He shifted to make room for Abby.  "Hi," he said quietly.

"Hi.  Hi, Xander."

"Hi, Abby."  He reached over to squeeze her hand. She gave him a weak smile.  "Want to come play with Queen Scruffy afterwards?  She's good at being cried on."

"I might."  She patted his hand. "Where's McGee?"

"He couldn't get out of the car," Xander told her.  She sighed but he shook his head.  "He'll come in soon."  McGee came in with Gibbs behind him.  They sat in front of the trio, McGee nodding at them.  "It'll get better in time," Xander reminded him.

"Did yours?"

Xander nodded.  "It took a long time but yeah, it did."  McGee nodded, settling in.  "Don't make me kick your seat if you get stuck in bad thoughts," he hissed.  McGee shook his head quickly.  Gibbs looked at him.  "Had to for others."

"It'll be fine, Xander.  We were going to lunch together after this."

"Tim's making waffles.  He might be able to make more."

"I'll call him on the way to the graveside service," Gibbs promised.   He stood up when the body was brought in, Tony and Xander right behind him, McGee right behind them.  When the casket was placed in the holder, they sat down again.  He felt Xander kick the seat and looked back at him but he had only shifted.  McGee quit staring at the casket and looked down instead.  A few minutes later he heard Xander shift again but this time it was to hand Abby something to cry on.  The rest of the funeral went smoothly, McGee only got one more kick to knock him into moving when the rest of them stood up and he didn't.  At the end, they followed Kate's body out, Xander behind their group and the family.  Gibbs looked at his people.  "Xander, you drive one car.  Abby, McGee, ride with me."  They nodded, getting into the correct cars.  Xander ground Tony's gears once, even he had to wince at the sound, but he got it right on the next shift.  He followed the hearse, Tony's mustang right behind him.  On the way he did call Xander's house.  "Xander invited us back for breakfast since we were going to go out together."  Speed's 'of course you're all coming back' made him smile.  "Thanks.  We're going to the graveside now."  He hung up.  "We're going to Xander's for the team lunch."

"Sure," Abby agreed quietly.  "Are we cooking?"

"No, Speed is."

"He's up?"

"He got shot a few days back," Gibbs told her.  "He's damn lucky he survived.  Harris is fussing over him too."

"He's good at it," McGee said quietly.

"He is."  He pulled in the cemetery, watching the hearse park.  He parked behind the family, looking at them.  "Don't heave, McGee.  No matter how much you want to.  Am I clear?"

"Yes, boss."

"Good.  Walk Abby inside, you two can lean on each other."  That got a nod and they got out.  He got out and closed the door, nodding at Tony and Xander.  The boy was doing a good job of hovering without making it look like they were together.  He followed them, nodding at the parents again.  The team gathered together, McGee staring at the casket again.  Xander gave him a small pat on the back to wake him out of his thoughts, getting a look from McGee.  Xander mouthed something and he nodded, grimacing but looking at the casket.  Abby wrapped her arm around McGee's and he looked at her instead, getting a gentle squeeze. The priest stepped up to start the last of the service, letting the honor guard place the casket and remove the flag draped over it for the folding and presentation.


Speed looked out as the door opened.  "I'm cooking now, guys. You made good time."  He poured out another portion of batter, closing the iron.  "There's four started.  Go wash up."

"This way, guys," Tony ordered, letting them into the downstairs bathroom.  He went upstairs to change, finding Xander doing the same thing.  "Thank you."

"It's what I do, Tony."  He gave him a kiss on the cheek.  "You'll come back tonight.  That way you can sleep too."  Tony nodded, taking off his suit coat.  Xander handed him the hanger it had been on, pulling on some jeans and a t-shirt, plus some other socks. He padded downstairs, going to help.  "Can I do anything?"

"Nope, I've got it.  Get me plates."  Xander did that, plus the milk and glasses.  "Thanks.  Food!" he called.  They came to get plates and make their waffles however.  Abby got into the fridge, finding some jam but that was fine.  Speed nodded at those he didn't know.  "Hi."

"Hi," Abby said.  "You're Speed right?"

"I'd hope so.  No one else had better be sneaking in and cooking."  Xander grinned at him.  "Sorry, some levity."

"No, it's a good thing," Abby assured him.  She gave him a hug.  Then she spotted the dogs.  "Why are they outside?"

"Because they're being butts," Speed told her.  "Roger was trying to hump the fridge.  This way they can't jump and beg.  They can come in when we're done eating.  Besides, the cat's still here."  He nodded at the lump of fur on the fridge.  "She doesn't like to come down.  Murphy likes to give her a bath."

"Awww," she cooed, coming over to pet the cat.  "Hi, Queen Scruffy."  The cat looked at her.  "I'm Abby, I'm a nice person.  Want some lovies?"  The cat let her pet her, going back to her nap.  "She's adorable."

"Especially when she pounces your toes under the sheets," Xander agreed.  McGee cracked a smile but it fell away.  "You're allowed, McGee.  Really.  She wouldn't want you to be stuck at that moment.  Or to join her."

"I know, it just seems wrong."

"Of course it does.  You feel incomplete, like someone removed a limb."  He looked up then nodded.  "Everyone's life is like a puzzle.  A corner of yours got removed.  No one will ever fit that hole the same way but that doesn't mean you can't make new friends, that you can't move on, and that she'd want you to mope yourself into following her.  She didn't seem like that to me."

"She wasn't," Abby agreed.  She gave him a hug.  "It'll be okay."

"I know, but it's going to take time."

"It will," Abby agreed.  "But we've got each other to help us through this."

"We do," Gibbs agreed.  "Kid, ever think about going to college?"

"With my grades?" he snorted.  "Not likely."

"Xander, you could go to school," McGee said firmly. "You're nowhere near stupid.  Half of that was Sunnydale and the other half was the fact you had no time for studying.  No stupid boy could hack the way you have."

"School still sucks," Xander told him.  "I hate lecture classes."

"We'll nag him about it later," Speed promised.  "He'd make a good therapist."

"Yeah but I don't want to listen to other people's problems every day.  I'd rather work construction. I make a good salary doing it and I get to do what I like and see it finished."

"We won't push if you don't want to go," Tony assured him.  "We want you to be happy."

"I am."  He grinned.  "See, happy."

"Good.  The well's still running a bit low," Speed told him.

"I know.  I've talked to someone about it and it can be fixed.  She'll be out this week to help."

"Good."  He patted him on the back.  "Looking forward to it."  He made more waffles, handing them over.  "There, eat.  Then go wander to tell Xander how good he did on it."

"Okay."  Abby fixed her next waffle then took Xander off, walking him around so he could tell her where he had done the additions.  Gibbs followed behind, tapping on a few walls here and there to check for soundness.

McGee finished up.  "Can I get the dogs?"

"Sure," Tony agreed.  "They might bark but they won't bite."  He nodded, going out to get them and let them inside.  Murphy immediately tried to lick the syrup off his face and Roger tried to hop up onto his head, but that was fine.  The dogs would make him feel better.  Tony looked at Speed.  "Thank you."

"Not a problem.  I learned how to help people in pain from Horatio."  That got a smile.  "Also, you should probably do some wash.  You didn't bring anything over this time."

"Point."  He grinned and went to find his pile of laundry.  He walked past Gibbs.  "Laundry day."

"That works," Gibbs agreed.  He walked out onto the back porch.  "McGee, there's snow on the ground.  Get them in here so you don't freeze."  The dogs ran inside and McGee followed, looking a bit happier.  He walked in shaking his head, muttering about kids.


Tony woke up that night feeling someone stroking through his hair.  He blinked at Speed, who was sitting up.  "What's wrong?" he asked quietly.

"Just needed to talk."  Tony sat up too, looking at Xander.  "If we move he'll have nightmares."  That got a nod.  "I'm going to be here for most of a month, Tony.  Is that going to make you uncomfortable?"

"No.  Why would it?"

"Because it's clear you care for him the same way I do," Speed said quietly.  Tony sighed but nodded.  "I was fine with it before and I still am, Tony, but I'm wondering if we're moving into one of the most natural trios ever or not."

"I don't know," he admitted, looking at him.  He glanced at Xander before shifting closer.  "I have no idea, Speed.  I know what I want but that's all I know right now."

"The real question is, do you think you could stand me the same as you do him?"  Xander shifted and they both stayed quiet until he snored and flipped over to hug Speed's thigh, earning a smile and a pat through his hair.  Xander drifted off again.  He looked at Tony, who took the simple answer and kissed him.  "Not bad."  He took another one.

"Want me to sleep in another bed?" Xander muttered.

"No, sleep, dear," Tony ordered, patting him on the back.  "I want you to nap.  We're talking about sharing you."

Xander looked up at them.  "That's one of those images that won't let me get to sleep again."

"We're just talking tonight, Xander," Speed promised.  "We'll work on the practical stuff tomorrow.  Go back to sleep."

"Can't now."  He nuzzled Speed's stomach, making him hiss and tense up.  "Relax before your shoulder starts to ache."

Tony chuckled. "He's very direct."

"Yeah, he's good at it too," Speed assured him.  "I had to teach him but he's great at it."  Xander blushed but went down further to play with his cock.  "Oh, that's nice," he moaned, shifting to give him more room.

Tony watched, then shifted behind Xander, licking up his back and nibbling on his neck.  One hand moved slowly down to tease him, but it only made Speed groan.  "This means you'd both be mine.  I'm possessive once I've locked onto a target."

Speed smirked.  "You and me both, Tony."  Xander groaned.  "He bottoms too."

Tony moaned.  "I'd like to see that soon."

"You two haven't?"

"Getting closer but I didn't want to pounce when you didn't know."  He took a kiss from Speed, earning a smile.  "You're sure?"

"I'm very sure."   He pushed Xander's head back down.  "So, do you bottom?"

"Maybe," Tony offered with an impish grin. Xander wiggled so he paid more attention to him, winking at Speed.  Speed wiggled when Xander laughed, coming with a groan.  "Oooh, my turn!"  Tony flipped Xander over to play with him for real, making him wiggle, giggle, and bring the dogs.  "Out, guys.  No need to protect the daddy."   The cat walked up him so he looked back.  "Mine, cat.  Down off the bed."  Speed picked her up, putting her onto the headboard.  "That'll work."  He got back to playing, letting Speed help.  It took longer to get Xander off but it was fine.  Speed attacked Tony, making him moan and go limp, taking it and enjoying it. "Ohhhh, he's good at that," Tony agreed happily when Xander latched on to suck him.  "Very good at that."

"Yeah, I taught him good," Speed agreed, winking at Xander.  "Do that thing," he mouthed.  Xander winked back and did that one thing Speed had taught him, making Tony yelp and come, nearly hurting his back.  "See?" he asked with a shiteating grin.

"Oh, I do," Tony said, sounding sleepy.  "More in the morning, guys.  Okay?"

"Works for me," Xander agreed, draping himself across Tony.  "I'm extra cuddly," he said at the pat to his shoulder.

"That's fine," Tony agreed.

"Anya hated it."

"Anya has good taste in men but bad taste in what she liked," he said dryly.  "Cuddle up, Speed?"

"I can do that."  He cuddled against their sides, his bad arm over Xander's back.  "Nice, thank you, guys."

"Welcome," Xander agreed.  "Can I pounce in the morning?"

"Sure," Tony agreed.

"You'll be worn out," Speed warned.

"That's fine.  I'm off.  I could use the cuddles.  I'll limp Monday morning."

"Works for us," Speed agreed.  Xander made a humming noise, nearly asleep.  They smiled at him, then Speed fell asleep on Xander's shoulder.  Tony wrapped them in his arms, falling asleep as the pillow.  It was nice.  Very nice.


Tony limped in Monday morning, looking at his boss.  "Please tell me we don't have a case yet," he begged hoarsely.

"Played with the dogs too much?" McGee asked.  Tony gave him a look.  "Really?" he asked with a grin.

"Yeah.  Where's Gibbs?"


"Good."  He sat down with a hiss.  "I need another back massage."

"He pounce?"

"We made the mistake of letting him eat chocolate and wear out the dogs first," Tony said simply.  He heard someone coming down the stairs.  "Morning, boss."

"DiNozzo.  Are you fit for duty?"

"Just a bit sore, boss.   Xander wore us out playing with the dogs."   He got a look.  "He did."

"Uh-huh.  Take something for your back, DiNozzo."

"Did on the way in, boss.  Just waiting for it to kick in on top of the massive breakfast Speed made us."

"What's Xander doing today?" McGee asked.

"Working on garage plans."  Tony grinned.  "That way I don't have to park the car in the snow."

"Are you moving out there?" Gibbs asked bluntly.   "The kid could use some help to stay sane."

"It's tempting but it's outside call-in distance," he said quietly, staring back.  "Especially if he gets snowed in."

"Point.  Keep a place in town just in case," he ordered.

"I can do that.  You sure?"

"I'm sure.  If I need you suddenly there's a good chance you'll be just as close."  Tony nodded at that. "When's Speed going back?"

"Early next month.  He's meeting with his PT today.  Xander drove him in."  That got a smile.  "I should write Miami to make sure they know he's okay and doing what he's supposed to.  Not getting into any trouble."   He turned on his computer and got in to do that.  It wasn't that hard to find their email addresses through the department's home page.  He selected his boss's email since Speed said things that made him think they were friends as well as coworkers.  He sent off a quick, happy sounding email and opened up his present casefile.  "Anything new yet?"

"No, not yet, DiNozzo.  We're on back desk duty for the day.  Get caught up."  Tony nodded, getting to work on that.  "Anything else I should know?"

"Speed said there's got to be a garage if he moves up here for his precious Ducatti."

"He rides a Ducatti?" McGee asked.

"Yeah.  Bright yellow too," Tony said with a grin.  "He said he's always getting tickets."

Gibbs moaned.  "Wonderful.  I can see you two drag racing down that back road for some reason, DiNozzo."

"I haven't drag raced since I was sixteen, Gibbs."

"Uh-huh."  He printed something, signed it, and put it into his out box.  "What do I have coming from you two?"

"Two reports, boss.  One that I'm correcting now," McGee offered.

"Nearly three.  All in outline," Tony admitted.  "One I'm correcting."  That got a nod.  He got down to work.  "What did the new director want?"

"Things to change."  Tony shuddered.  "It'll be fine."

"I hope you're right."  He got back to work, typing quickly.  He'd hate to have to retire and join Xander on a construction crew. Or maybe he and Speed would set up as PIs.


Speed answered his phone.  "Speedle."  He grinned.  "Hi, H.  Tony did?  That's good."  He laughed.  "No, I'm here playing with Xander's cat.  No, I'm okay.  PT today was horrible but it's going.  A month.  No, we're good.  Xander's got the house finished.  It's great.  I've been taking a lot of walks, making Xander do things like buy clothes that don't look like construction worker clothes."  Xander stuck his tongue out at him from across the room.  "Well, right now I've got Xander making smores in the fireplace with the dogs trying to beg for them.  I'm on the couch.  Yes, I'm comfortable.  I'm fine.  I'm being good.  Want a picture of my shoulder?"  He laughed.  "That's fine, H.  In a month.  Watch my bike for me, okay?  Thanks, H.  Tony's a friend.  He's at NCIS.  Sure.  I can do that.  Yeah, I can borrow Xander's computer.  That's fine.  See you in a month."  He hung up.  "Alexx wanted me to write."

"You know where the computer is.  I gave you your own log-in."  Speed smiled, going to do that while Xander made another few smores for them.  One did fall so the dogs got to fight over that gooey mess but that was fine he guessed.  He brought the plate into the study, giving him a kiss before handing him his.  Then he grinned and went to make cocoa.  There had been a great snowfall last night and he wanted to go play in it.

Speed smiled, shaking his head when he heard Xander open the door and the dogs follow him out to play.  He was such a goofball sometimes.   He even took a picture to send to Alexx, it'd make her giggle and try to fuss over him from Miami.


Speed looked around the sleepy scene Friday night, frowning.  "Guys, we're not this old or this settled," he said.  "We should be out having some fun."

"We can do that, I know some good clubs," Tony offered.

"Where we won't get into trouble for being together?" Xander asked.

"We shouldn't," Tony agreed.  He patted him on the leg.  "Go change into clubbing clothes."  Xander gave him a confused look. "Surely you've clubbed?"

"A bit when I was in Las Vegas and Miami.  I didn't get hit on."

"We can solve that," Speed promised, getting up and hauling Xander up.  "Show me what you wore last time."  Xander nodded, leading him into the closet.  He found his favorite outfit for that and Speed shook his head.  "No, too loose.  Remember, you want to go out there looking hot.  Even with us, you want us to drool over you while you move."

"I don't dance that well."

"It happens and we can teach you that too," Tony promised.  He pulled out a set of jeans and a t-shirt, handing them over.  "That and the leather jacket."  He looked at Speed, pulling out his only tight jeans.  "We need to shop for you."

"It happens.  I don't club too much in Miami either."

Tony shook his head.  "I spent nearly every weekend for the last ten years in the clubs."  He found something he wanted to wear, going to change in the bathroom.  Xander changed into his while he was changing, letting Speed pick his own shirt.  He came out and looked.  "Nice choice, Speed.  Xander?  Wrong shirt."  Speed changed it for him and handed it over.  "Better.  Boots.  Not sneakers."  Xander sat down to put those on.  "Better."  He led them out to his car, taking them to a gay club he knew was discreet and out of the way.  No cameras.  An entry off a parking garage.  No way for them to be seen.  He led them in by their hands.  "I've got cover."  The bouncer scanned them.  Tony showed his ID, getting a nod.  "I've got shrapnel, he's got new stitches, and I'm not sure about Xander."

"I've got a bit of metal here and there from attacks, especially graduation," Xander admitted.  "There was a metal frame on the building."  The bouncer hand wanded him but the metal detector only beeped faintly at most spots.  Tony paid cover and they were let inside.  Xander watched the crowd.  "I can't move like that."

"You can and you will," Speed promised, dragging him out there.  He planted Xander in front of him, moving with him, making Xander move with him.  He wasn't quite getting it but Tony moved up behind Xander, matching rhythms with Speed's to show him.  Their hands on Xander's hips helped, some, but he was still very anti-rhythmic.  "It's like sex," Speed told him.  "You do well with that."

Xander shrugged. "I'm trying!"

They squeezed him closer, tighter between them.  Xander matched the stride a bit better but he was doing girl moves.  Tony nipped him on the neck.  "Not like your friends did, Xander.  We don't need you being girly for us."  Xander gave him a helpless look.  So he went to get him a drink.  It'd help.  He brought it back and Xander shared it with Speed.   It helped, a bit, but the next song helped more.   "Ah-ha, it's a style thing," Tony said happily, making Speed smile.

"This has nothing on some of the back-room Latino clubs in Miami," he called back over the music.  Xander grinned and nibbled on his neck, making him hiss.  "No turning into a vampire, Xander."  Xander shifted and his rhythm got better.  He mouthed 'what did you get him' to Tony, who smiled.


"Rum good."  Speed let Xander latch onto Tony, getting his back.  It was much better.  They were nearly having sex on the floor and getting a lot of appreciative looks.  He glared at one when he came over, making him move off.  Tony got to glare at another one.  Xander finally growled at someone, glaring at him.  He backed down and backed away slowly.  "Wow," Speed said, kissing him on the back of the neck.  Xander pressed back against him, making him happy.  Tony looked down at Xander.  "What?" Speed asked.

"Hey, Xander, are you in there too?"

Xander looked up at him and grinned.  "Of course I am. Did you feed me rum?"  Tony nodded.  "Rum bad.  Vodka bad too.  All the dark liquors are bad but most light ones are okay."  He kissed him.  "I'm fine.  I won't hunt.  I'm still in control."

"We'll remember that next time," Speed promised, letting Xander wrap himself around him.  "We should sit for a while."

"That works for me," Tony agreed, leading them off to sit out of the way.  Xander was extra cuddly and gropey but that's fine.  Speed went to get a new drink for them.  A safe, simple dark ale.  Xander sipped and looked impressed, taking another drink.  "Looks like we found a good drink."

"That's good," Speed agreed, taking it to sip.  "Mmm, good ale."  He kissed Tony then Xander.  "Thanks, Tony."

"Welcome."   Tony smiled at Xander, stroking over his cheek.  "Let's go back out there?"  Xander nodded, climbing over him and dragging Tony with him.  Speed laughed, waving at them.  He finished the ale, watching the looser, comfier Xander out there.  He was definitely attracting attention now.  A lot of attention.  Speed got up and went out there, taking Xander back, winking at Tony, who let him have him for now.  By the time they were ready to go, Tony had decided to take them back to his place.  It was closer and he needed to pick up clothes anyway.  He walked his boys out to the car, taking them to his place.   It was warm and cozy.  Even if he did have a letter on the door.  He looked at it then rolled his eyes.  "I'll talk to him in the morning."  He let the boys into the apartment, going to pounce Xander.  He owed him for making his back hurt that first weekend together.


Tony stumbled in Monday morning, looking at Gibbs before putting his head down and falling back to sleep.

McGee cackled.  "Looks like someone had fun this weekend."

"He called me Sunday, his landlord made him move.  His sister was coming in and he gave her Tony's apartment."  Gibbs threw a balled up piece of paper at Tony's head.  "DiNozzo!"

"Boss, I'm going to commit homicide," he said plainly.  "It'll be a nice, clean crime scene.  Give me ten, please."

"Director's coming," McGee said, getting back to work.

Tony sat up, looking at his boss.  "I got everything moved out to Xander's."  He blinked hard.  "Speed used it as PT for the week.  The local PD out there was amused but oh well.  They offered me a detective's spot since it's closer.  Do you need me to fix the forms today, boss?"

"No, wait until you get one in town."

"I figure those days I can afford a motel room.  I keep the travel bag in the trunk anyway."

"That would work," Gibbs agreed.  "As long as I can get you when I need you."

"Sure thing, boss.  We're fighting Xander's sedentary tendencies.  He's been home all week.  We had to make him go out Friday night," he explained at the look.  "Oh, as a matter of future reference.  Xander may not drink rum or any other dark liquor and he may not drink vodka but dark beers are fine.  Dark liquors and vodka do funny things to him."

"Did you have to buy a leash?" McGee asked quietly.

"About a quarter of the way there," Tony admitted.  The director finally made it to their row and he handed over something he wrote out.  "I'm changing my address officially next week sometime when I'm sure I can stand living that far out."  She gave him a look.  He stared back.  "The old director wanted to know such things, ma'am."

"That's not any further out than mine is," Gibbs pointed out.  "It'll be fine.  Does your current cell work out there?"

"Yeah, as long as Xander's cat doesn't chew on the antenna again."

"I was wondering why you had to get a new one," McGee quipped.

"She decided it was a mouse when it vibrated.  She batted it into a mouse trap while playing and then carried it and the trap into the bathroom, tossing it into Speed's shower as a present to show what a mighty huntress she is."  McGee cackled about that.  "Exactly."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Same number, boss, but more storage."

"I remember."  He looked at the director.  "The old director did want to know those things, Jen."  She walked off.  As soon as she was out of sight upstairs Tony's head hit the desk again and he started to snore within seconds.  Gibbs shook his head.  "I've got to talk to those boys."

"If he was *moving* it might be a legitimate tiredness," McGee offered.

"It might be but they probably didn't need to do it all night."

"It depends on when he needed to be out, boss.  Um, coming back," he noted.

The director put the form down on Tony's desk then gave Jethro a look.  "His landlord's sister is coming in so he gave her DiNozzo's apartment without his agreeing to give it up.  He spent all weekend moving his things.  I'll get him up in an hour."

"He could have called off today."

"He hasn't had any leave time built up since he got the plague, ma'am," McGee said.  "He had to borrow at that point."

She stared at him.  "Why?  That should have been sick leave."

"Because in the last year DiNozzo's been shot twice and clubbed in the head another four times trying to save the rest of us injury," Gibbs told her.  "They made him borrow and he still came back a week too early."

"Nearly died that day getting us away from the bomb," McGee said.

"True, he did," Gibbs agreed.  "Not something I want to think about, McGee."

"Sorry, boss."

"That's fine," the director said.  "He didn't have any warning?"

Tony lifted his head.  "I came home Friday night to a note on the door.  Since I spent Wednesday and Thursday nights here working...."  He put his head back down.  "I'll stay late tonight, I usually do."

"That's fine, Agent DiNozzo.  Did you get totally moved?"  He nodded.  "Are your roommates arranging things?"

He lifted his head.  "Xander owns the house I'm moving into.  He's a very good friend.  Speed is a CSI out of Miami who recently got shot.  He's another friend of Xander's and he's up for some recovery time.  Speed and I both helped Xander build the house since he expanded it by about five hundred percent."  He gave her a look.  "I'm filling out the official paperwork next week, once I'm sure I can stand being there full time and it'll work for work problems."

"That's fine.  You might also consider a lint roller."

"I have three, I couldn't find them."  He looked at the spot she pointed at.  "Not even the sheepdog."  He put his head back down.  "Before you ask, I'm caught up with all my paperwork, ma'am, and we don't have a new case yet.  It's this or I'm surfing spanking websites again."  She walked off.  He looked over at Gibbs.  "You mind?"

"No.  You're caught up.  You got everything?"

"Yup.  Even managed not to kill myself lifting my big screen down the stairs.  Didn't let Xander put it next to the fireplace either.  Speaking of, he needs that number for the firewood guys again.  He lost it."  He put his head back down, going back to sleep.

Gibbs shook his head, writing Xander an email.  Including how you were supposed to cut firewood from the dead trees around the house.  He had a lot of those.  He got back an outline for the garage plans and had to point out they looked a bit funny, that two large bays would go just as well and give Speed plenty of room for his bike to pull in.  Plus if he wanted to he could add a storage area above it.  Xander redid the plans and sent them back, then asked where you would buy a normal axe.  The one he had was crappy - his words.  Gibbs sent back an 'I like it but it could be wider openings' and to find a good hardware store.  Maybe even a chainsaw and an axe.  He got back a simple smiley face. "Xander's working on the garage plans," he said.

McGee smiled.  "If he ever decides to move, he's going to have no problem selling that house."

"He'd find another wreck and do it again," Gibbs told him.

Tony lifted his head.  "Even if Speed decides he wants to stay in Miami permanently Xander's said he's not moving.  He said so."  He put his head back down then sat up a minute later. "I guess I'm rested."  He got to work on the change of address form, sticking it in his desk for the week waiting period.  Then he turned on his computer to play online.  He found the garage plans, frowning at them.  "That won't look right."

"The second one, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.

He found that one and nodded.  "I like that one better."  He checked the rest of the mail.  "HR sent out a memo about dress code."

"Ignore it.  I make the dress code for my team," Gibbs told him.

"Ignored," Tony agreed.  He deleted it and got back to everything else.  "And a second one."  He read it over.  "Hats?"

"You have to wear it on scenes," Gibbs said.  "They look bad in the office."

"Of course.  Not like I usually wear them around the office, boss."  He deleted it and came to a last one.  "Huh.  Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and friends may not drop by the office to bring you lunch, take you to lunch, or otherwise come up to the office."  He looked at Gibbs.

"As long as they're not distracting you.  I wouldn't care if you brought Speed up to try to recruit him, DiNozzo."

"Good to know.  It's okay if they stop by to see if I can go to lunch?"

"It's helping with Speed's physical therapy.  You give him hope he'll get back to normal."  He waved a hand. "You know where I stand.  Those rules haven't changed."

"Yes they have," the director said as she came back.  "I do not think...."

"His roommate is the reason we got the Initiative case, Director," Gibbs said blandly.  "One of them is a CSI I can see us recruiting if he can get back to full abilities.  With one in physical therapy I don't care if they come to take him to lunch as long as I'm giving him a lunch at that time and he's not doing anything else.  I would expect them to call first."

"Which is reasonable and Xander does," Tony agreed.

"As long as that continues *my* rules haven't changed," Gibbs told them.  They both nodded and got back to work.  "Speaking of clothes, DiNozzo...."

"Wasn't unpacked yet and I can't fit into Xander's, boss.  I'll be in something else tomorrow."

"That's fine."  His phone rang.  "Gibbs."  He listened then smirked.  "That would be a bad thing, yes.  Any other suggestions?"   He nodded.  "That could work.  Thank you, Xander."  He hung up.  "DiNozzo, he did laundry for you.  Speed grounded him to the house for the day and the dogs aren't playing with him.  Also, you might check your email.  He found something out about a case of yours."  Tony got into his email, then giggled.  "Exactly.  He offered to ruin them for you but I thought that might be a bad thing."

"Probably, yeah.  It does give me a lead however.  Remind me to pick up sweets on the way home, boss.  Since it's cold want me to take Probie with me?"

"Go."  They headed out together, Tony briefing McGee on the way down to the garage.  Gibbs looked at the director.  "I don't care, Jen.  I make the rules on my team.  DiNozzo is making sure a very bright CSI gets back to his team if at all possible.  If it helps and I'm not having him do anything he can go to lunch.  The same as I determine my team's dress code."  She walked off.  He called Ducky.  "When DiNozzo gets back, talk to him about the muscle strain he's been having in his back," he said quietly.  "Last weekend and then this weekend he had to move suddenly.  They're out on a cold case Xander found a lead on.  Thanks, Ducky."  He hung up and got back to his own cold cases.


Tony walked into the house that night.  "I'm under orders to rest my back tonight."

"We can tie you down," Speed offered.  "That way you can't get hurt."

Tony gave him a kiss.  "That's not a bad idea but I'm exhausted."

"Go take a hot bath.  I'll bring dinner up."  Tony grinned and headed up there.  "Let him sleep too.  It took me nearly forever to get him down for a nap."  He went back into the kitchen, shaking his head.  He felt really naughty being with Xander and Tony.  He heard a knock right before the dogs went nuts.  "What?"  He walked out that way, finding a woman at the door.  "I'm not in the mood to buy crap, lady.  Sorry."

"I'm not here to sell things, I'm the director at NCIS.  Gibbs seems to think that you might be open to being recruited."

"I'm still thinking about that."  He stared at her.  "I'm letting Gibbs talk to me when I've got more energy.  He can pimp his own program very well, ma'am.  He and Horatio can square off and argue over me too.  Xander threatened to sell popcorn."  She didn't look amused.  Especially not when Roger came over to sniff her.  "That's Gibbs' boss, Roger."  The dog growled.  "It's nice meeting you but it's still up in the air until I finish my physical therapy.  Then I'll let Gibbs try to get me.  Until then I'm going to be lucky if I can use that hand."  She nodded.  "But do have a nice day."  Tony peeked down the stairs.  "Your director, Tony."

"I'm naked, what does she need?"

"Wanted to come pimp NCIS to me."

"Gibbs said that was my job."  He walked off.  "I'm working on my back again."

"That's fine.  Steaks for dinner."  He looked at her again.  "Can I help you with anything else, ma'am?"

"No.  I think I know everything I need."

Speed smirked.  "I doubt it."

"Are you saying that you're not in a relationship with my agent?"

"No, I'm in a relationship with Xander.  Tony lives with us.  He and Xander have been friends since they met.  Now, anything else before I help Tony file a discrimination suit against you because he knows a bisexual male?"  She stomped off.  He slammed the door.  Then he called Gibbs.  "Guess who came out to pimp your program."  He nodded.  "Yup and she accused us of corrupting Tony.  I told her Xander and I were together. That Tony just lived here.  Because I know the military's viewpoint, Gibbs."  He snickered.  "That's fine.  Thanks.  Thought you should know."  He hung up, going back to the kitchen. When he was done he carried them upstairs, letting them have dinner in the bathroom.  Even if the dogs did beg often.


Gibbs walked up the stairs the next morning, going into the director's office.  "Lay off DiNozzo.  I know very well he's living with a committed couple.  We've been over to their house.  Xander's asked my advice since he did the greatest majority of the work on the house himself.  If you don't like DiNozzo knowing a committed gay couple, that's your problem.  Everyone in this office knows DiNozzo's a hole hunter, Jen.  Always with women. Nearly every single woman.  Don't believe me, ask.  Just leave my people alone."  He walked off again.  "DiNozzo, you'd better not be sleeping."

"I'm not, boss, I'm scraping tape off my desk," he said, looking up.  "Someone put evidence tape all over my desk."  He let him see.

"Get the tape remover."  He held up the razor blade he was using.  "The spray stuff."

"Doesn't work on this.  It was glued on.  Abby's mixing me something but it'll be a few.  I'm removing the extra tape."

"Any idea why?"

"Not a clue.  I noticed some on Probie's desk," he said with a nod.  Gibbs looked then growled.  "Any on yours, boss?"

"No.  Which means it's ...."  Fornell appeared.  "Did you tape his desk up?"

"Our people did."  He looked at Tony.  "Agent DiNozzo, what do you know about a hacker named Elf Lord Vargas?"

"Quite a lot.  Including that he's not doing anything that would've gotten your attention," he said, getting back to work.

"We know he's out in Alexandria."

Tony looked at him but shook his head.  "No he's not."

"Yes, he is."

"Then he's a poser using his ID.  Vargas works for NCIS."

"I'm aware of that.  I need a way to prove which was him."

"As another hacker has said recently there's dozens of styles of hacking, Fornell.  Including signatures," Gibbs pointed out.

"You know another one?  Ours hack in the same manner from what they admitted to."

"Yeah, we know one named Jeeves."

"I've heard good things about him.  He's legal."  Gibbs nodded.  "Do I know his usual identity?"

"You met him once," Tony admitted, giving him a look.  "Did they *have* to do this to my desk?"

"No, they had fun doing it to your desk."  Abby and McGee came up with a set of spray bottles.  "We should talk."

"Someone's using ELV's ID to do stuff from Alexandria," Tony told them.

"Really?" McGee asked.  "That's funny, I don't live out there."

"We know," Fornell told him.

"Xander said he had to smack someone in that game where he got information," Tony offered.  "It could be the same kid."

"It could be," McGee agreed.  "Which game?  There's a few of them."

"Something about a gelding trying for a stallion."

"The centaur game.  Someone's going to die if they bother some of them.  I could call Rosenburg."

"I'd rather you not," Gibbs said firmly.  "Figure out how they got your ID."

"If they managed to get into the game they're at least little kid hackers, boss," McGee said.  "If I'm right, they're doing it to discredit someone."

Tony called Xander.  "Can you please send McGee everything you have on the gelding you had to smack on the head?  Someone's using ELV's ID."  He smiled at McGee.  "Thanks, Xander."  He hung up, leaning back.  "Not only has the kid been found, he tried to use Huntress's ID?"   McGee shuddered.  "He sounded *very* happy about it."

"If she gets him we won't even get pieces," McGee assured him.  He sat down at his computer, then got up and moved Tony from his, sitting down to get into his.  "Mine's missing the hard drive, boss."  He got into the game interface, frowning.  "It's blocked."

"The director had it blocked last night to aid us," Fornell admitted.

McGee looked at him.  "Then how does she expect us to find him?"

"It was her decision, we didn't ask."

McGee called Xander.  "I need your laptop please.  Thank you."  He hung up and called another number.  "Huntress, Elf Lord Vargas.  I know that.  Jeeves said someone's been using your ID too?  That's what I'm working on right now.  I want the guy and I am a Fed.  Please.  I'm at NCIS.  You can send it to Jeeves, he's coming in to help me.  Thank you."  He hung up.  "She'll play along."  He looked at Fornell.  "Yes, I do know most of the ones in DC and she's LEO out by Xander actually."  The director showed up.  "If you don't unblock it I can't find out who's been using the ID I use to hack for NCIS, director."  She looked stunned so he looked back. "How do you think Abby and I get information?  It comes ...."  Gibbs covered his mouth.  "I'm emotional, I'll calm down," he assured him.  "I didn't mean to snap at you, Director.  It won't happen again."   Xander came off the elevator.  "That was fast."

"I was with Helena of Troy.  She's *pissed* in all caps."  He handed over his laptop.  "We were going after the guy.  He's not in Alexandria, that's where his server is sitting.  She's waiting for you to log onto my system."  McGee nodded, doing that.  Xander hooked up his cellphone and hit a number.  "Hook me into Tony's system please."  The director spluttered.  "Shut up.  I'm not under your command.  I'm here to help McGee clear his name since *someone* let the hacker into her system to change all your security codes.  By the way, your budget got coopted last night as well.  You might wanna ask Abby to find it for you since I can't.  They're using her style of hacking."  McGee moved so Xander could have Tony's computer after logging him in.  He got onto one site then into a site that came up all black and dark blue.  "None of you see this.  I can be skinned alive if I show you this.  This is demonic before anyone asks."

He typed in his password, finding it had been eaten.  He giggled and typed in an admin passcode, getting in and going off.  "Ah, the benefits of knowing Rosenburg's style too."  He got where he wanted, nudging her to go away, that they were dealing with a hacker who cheesed everyone locally in DC off, including Elf Lord Vargas.  Her character shuddered but left it to him.  He got to do what he did best.  He wreaked havoc.  By the time he was done there were sixteen demonic hackers looking for her too.  Then he backed out and signed in as someone else, going to another section of the server.  "That's a shame," he said happily.  "Pity."  He got into the hacker's areas, finding her.  "Got her.  She's in LA routing through Miami."  McGee looked over so he sent it to him.  "It's in my email."

McGee got into it, nodding.  "Got her.

Xander looked up.  "How much vengeance can I get?"

Fornell and Gibbs looked at each other.  "What can you do, kid?"

"Well, I have a bomb that Willow designed.  It'll take anyone out of every single system in the world."  They gaped.  "So she won't exist.  Ever.  That'll drive her nuts.  Or it can put her into *every* system in the world.  Since she's in LA I can have her eaten," he offered, thinking about it.  "That'll take two favors being called in.  Or there's another thing I could do.  You want her begging, right?"

"If she's in LA make her go to the local office there, kid," Fornell ordered. "With the information on what she's done with the other ID's so we can weed them out."

Xander shrugged and printed off a file.  "You mean that?"  He handed it over.  Then he got to work.  He let out an evil chuckle, making McGee shudder in horror.  "Well, I can safely say I can afford the new garage."  He finished doing what he was doing and moved onto another screen.  "I'm sending the email order now, McGee."

"Sure.  I can back that up.  Found her old hacking group too.  She used to be part of .... oooh, Fornell."  He came over to look over his shoulder.  "Wasn't that an NSA project?"


"Pity," Xander repeated.  He finished it and sent it, checking his watch.  "Hey, Gibbs, can I grab a soda from the machine?"

"Go ahead.  It's up the hall, Xander."

"Thanks, man.  By the way, I'm going to wipe Tony's hard drive after this.  Some of the things I was using were a bit... odd.  Like Initiative was nice compared to them odd."  He walked off, grabbing a soda from the machine, kissing Abby on the cheek when he ran into her.  "I'm wiping Tony's machine in about ten minutes."


"Someone was using ELV's ID and a few others to make trouble.  We're sending a message."  He walked back and found Fornell going through his laptop.  He took it from him, handing it back to McGee.  "I don't hack for shits and giggles, Fornell.  I do help law enforcement and I'm helping bring down some really evil lawyers who're trying to end the world.  Not like I'm going to run into your duties."  He sat down and popped the soda, seeing her trying to fix her own computer. He chuckled again and sent a reminder.  She sent back a shriek so he sent in very simple language where she was going to go.  If they told his contacts she had went there and confessed, he'd see about renewing her computer.  Until then....  He let it trail off when her computer shut down.  A new window opened and he typed in a 'hi' then got the other three screens he had opened.  A few clicks of the mouse, a few numbers typed in, and her life was ruined.  He finished his soda, smiling at the name of the person typing at him.  "Hmm.  Someone in Miami caught her routing through the PD servers."  He typed in what was going on, where he was, not saying that he was or wasn't an agent, but that they were fixing a hacker who had hacked an official Federal hacker at NCIS, then he gave him the same information and where she was going to go.  He looked at Fornell.  "I'd call and warn them."  He wrote down the address.  "I told her to go there."

"That's an agent's home address.  How did you get that?"

Xander grinned.  "I saved his ass a few summers ago.  He was kinda drunk so I drove him home after making sure he didn't die of being drunk."

"Oh."  He nodded weakly.  "Are you going to restore her things?"

"If the NSA wants her back, they can undo the bomb I used.  She can't, it's an admin level bomb."  He looked at McGee, who was chuckling.  "Huntress having a good day?"

"Now," he agreed.  "I sent her what you did and she's giggling like she's on 'shrooms according to her."

"Good.  I like making people happy."   Xander grinned at him.  "Nearly done?"

"Yeah.  How bad is Tony's machine going to be?"  He saw the smoke starting.  "No.  Xander!"

"Had to.  Sorry.  It can be redone.  I promise it isn't eating the drive.  Just the dust in there."  He took back his laptop when McGee handed it over, kissing him on the temple.  "If you need me, call me again."  He smiled at Gibbs, shaking his hand.  "You too."  He nodded at Fornell.  "Can I have the money for the sale of my collection now?  I noticed you guys blocked it and I've got to build a garage."

Fornell nodded slowly.  "Sure.  I saw your collection, I can do that," he agreed.  "He was stupid to note it was for the sale of weapons for a collection."  Xander beamed and hugged him then bounced out.  "How...?" he asked.

"Before you figure that out, there's a hacker named Rosenburg, she raised him," Tony told him.  "He grew up out in Sunnydale, which is why he helped stop the Initiative.  They didn't think he could do much of anything either.  She still probably doesn't think he can do anything."  He looked around.  "Abby?"  She came off the elevator with a box.  "Stuff to redo my harddrive?"

"Yup, sure is.  It'll take me a few hours so use Kate's computer please."

"I can do that.  Boss?"

"Works for me, DiNozzo."  He looked at McGee, then Fornell.  "Can he have his harddrive back too?"

"Sure," Fornell agreed, nodding.  "Can I forget I came here?"

"Sure, but in payment Xander is helping stop a multi-national law firm called Wolfram and Hart," Tony said.  "They're complicit in multiple conspiracies and homicides, plus jury rigging and trying to rule the world using the methods that Xander used to fight.  If you can find something he would like it before they start the next bad thing off and he has to get sucked in again.  It'll make Speed happy too."

"That I can do," he agreed, calling LA.  "It's Fornell.  You have a wanted hacker on her way to your address.  She was using the ID of some hackers in the Federal database and some others who do legal things.  She'll say something about an Elf Lord Vargas sending her."

"Or Jeeves," Tony offered.

"Or possibly someone named Jeeves."  He smirked.  "Yes, I just met him.  He's a very bouncy young man.  Why?"  He nodded.  "He said he does that.   He also said he's working against a law firm named Wolfram and Hart, which has an office in your neck of the woods.  That was his fee for helping catch her.  Apparently they do things like arrange for murders and to rig trials.  Yes, them.  I'm at NCIS.  She was using one of their agents, who hacks for the department, to get into other things.  It nearly made us arrest the agent.  Yeah, thanks."  He hung up and got away from the increasing smoke.  "Should it be doing that?"

Abby looked then nodded. "Yeah, no one's blown out the dust.  He overheated the hard drive so it's burning the dust."  She smiled at McGee.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine.  Xander and Huntress were working on it before I got told.  You might need to check my harddrive, or I can, when they give it back."

Fornell called.  "It's Fornell.  Situation solved.  It was someone using his ID to gain access to things.  No, she's sorry now.  He called in another hacker who works for the department now and then.  The one who hacked the Initiative when they got a friend.  Yeah, him.  Thank you.  We'll wait here for you to bring it back."  He hung up.  "Whoever the girl is my lab rat said she's pretty."

"That's my sister," he said quietly.  That got a nod.  "I will kill."

"Not an issue.  He's gay too."

"There seems to be a rash of that going around," Abby said with a grin for Gibbs.  The director gasped and wobbled.  She gave her a concerned look.  "Director, do you need a paramedic?"

"No," she said weakly.  "Jethro, how well do you know Mr. Harris?"

"Well enough."  He looked at her.  "He's still in a very firmly committed relationship, Jen."

"Good," she said, sounding a bit stronger.  "Is there anything else I need to be aware of?"

"We need that hacking access back for cases," Abby told her.  "McGee and I both pull hacking duties for the department at least once a month, ma'am."

"Fine," she agreed.  "I'm going to forget this morning ever happened."  She went up to her office but she found herself locked out.  She tried MTAC but she was out of the system.  "She removed me!" she yelled.

"I'll get you back in later on, after I fix these two computers," Abby called.  "You might want to call the SecNav, Gibbs, to see what she changed the security codes to."  He nodded, moving to do that.  "McGee."  She punched him on the arm.  "What was he doing?"

"He was in this one screen that was all black and navy blue.  I couldn't see a thing.  He said one thing was demonic."  She just nodded at that.  "You know, he was worried you'd hiss at him."

"I'd never hiss at him.  He protected people, McGee."  She punched him on the arm again.  "Xander is a fluffy puppy.  I only want to cuddle him and his dogs and his cat."   She smiled at Fornell.  "Have you seen pictures of his house?  He did a *fabulous* job.  It's a beautiful house and now he's adding a garage and a back porch so we can have cookouts during the summer.  Though he's going to be working construction then."  She got back to work.  "Wow, he really wiped it.  Totally demagnetized it."  She sighed and shook her head.  "Tony, I'll need to replace it after all.  I can probably undo it but it might not work the best ever afterward.  We buy the cheap harddrives.  He must think we bought the good ones."

"Xander would buy the good stuff," Tony agreed.  "His computer is.  By the way, Fornell, consider him a ghost.  He'll do it if we ask but otherwise he's not doing anything against anyone but the bad guys."

"I heard about the thing in Arizona.  Did they tell him to hide the funds?"

"The lead agent said he didn't care if Xander kept them since he handed over so much information on that group and then the others around them.  Thanks to that arrest, Reagan and he found another cartel connection and they got to shut it down."  He grinned.  "Which should make Horatio proud down in Miami since it was one of their citizens."

"At least he's helpful," Fornell admitted.   "If he ever turns not, I'm going to remember him again."

"That works for him too."

"Tell him I said to play with the dogs, it'll calm him down," Gibbs ordered.

"I'm not on with him boss.  I'm on with Speed.  He's already out playing with the dogs.  They're building snowmen for crossbow practice.  The dogs are loving it."

Fornell shook his head.  "I don't need to know those things."  He walked off, deciding to let his agent handle it.  He needed the experience.  Fornell needed a drink.  Even if it was nine in the morning he needed a drink.

Gibbs looked at his guys.  "Let's try for business as normal from now on.  Can we?"

"I'm not hacking, boss," Tony said smugly.

"No, you're living with one."

"Yes, but I've been making him not work on the Wolfram and Hart problem."  Gibbs shook his head.  "I have."

"I don't need to know that."

"Won't happen again, boss," he said with a bright, happy grin.  "Hey, Probie, since you're without anything to do, wanna make a coffee run?"

"Sure, Tony.  Boss?"

"I could use a cup," he agreed.  He handed over money, Tony handed over money.  Abby handed over money too.  "Have a good walk, McGee."

"Yes, boss.  Thanks."  He walked off, going to get them their caffeine of choice.  He needed a good walk.


Tony walked into the house and grabbed Xander, kissing him deeply.  "I love you."  Xander gave him a shocked, almost horrified, look.  "You sent Fornell to drink at nine in the morning. You proved yourself *so* good today.  I'm *impressed*, Xander.  I'm so impressed.  You were so good."  He gave him another kiss, shoving him against the wall to kiss.  "I'm so impressed and you rock me."

Xander looked at him.  "Is that the only reason you love me?"

Tony grinned.  "No, I figured out that I could love you a while ago.  You're sweet, sexy, bouncy, smart, hiding that you're smart but very smart, and you're wonderful."  He kissed him again.  "You and Speed make me happy and want to do stupid things, like announce it to the director."  Xander gave him a gentle, shy grin.  "Just accept that I do and we'll work on the whys later, Xander."  He kissed him again.

"No mugging Xander without me," Speed called.  "At least watching."

"I can molest and mug him in there," Tony promised, walking him that way.

"Dinner!" Xander said, jogging for the kitchen.  "Ha!  Didn't burn it this time!" he said proudly, taking the meat out to rest on top of the stove.  He looked at the pets then put a cover over it.  "Just so you three don't get any ideas."  He went back to the study, pouncing Tony from the doorway.  "Okay, I'm done.  Roast is on top of the stove."  He took his first kiss, wiggling over Tony's trapped body.  "Mine."

"Yours," Tony moaned, tipping his head back.  Xander let out a wicked chuckle, making Tony very hard.  "Oh, God, I love you when you're wicked.  I nearly jumped you in the office when you were destroying that hacker."  Xander nipped his ear, making him shiver.  "I liked that."  Xander did it again but now his pelvis was thrusting against Tony's.  "Xander," he moaned.  He finally came and went limp, Xander moving to clean him up.  He even lifted his hips so Xander could move his pants out of the way.  "Speed, you're going to die later."

"I'll die happy.  Just like you did, Tony."

"I definitely did."  Xander kissed him again.  "Hmm.  Dinner can wait.  Need to make you pass out too."  He moved to tease and play with Xander's cock, finally getting the pants out of his way.  "Commando, naughty boy.  I thought you were earlier."

"I was," Xander said with a wicked grin.  "I couldn't feel it this morning so I decided some fresh air might revive my poor, tired, stretched out hole."  Speed moaned at that.  "It was so numb from you two last night I'm just now getting a tingling feeling back."  Tony whimpered.  "I think I need to stop the tingling.  Don't you?"

"I do," he agreed, taking Xander's pants all the way off, tossing them onto a couch.  He found Speed had the lube open and waiting on him.  "That's what I need."  He took it and spread some on his fingers, preparing him quickly.  He slid in as soon as he could, making them both groan.  He pulled Xander's legs up and rode him hard, grinning down at him.  "I wanted to do this in the office when you went wicked this morning," he panted.  "Speed, he even *cackled* and made Fornell drink."

"I'm proud."  He undid his pants, plugging Tony's mouth with his cock.  "Do more, Tony. You look good like that."  Tony did and it was good.  Xander didn't get off but that was fine.  Speed took his place, sliding into the damp hole.  "I knew I held off until tonight for a reason."  He heard a clatter from the kitchen.  "Tony, go shoo the cat out of the cookies."  Tony leaned out and growled, making her leap off the counter.  Speed worked Xander's body slower, making him ache and beg, making him babble at him until he finally got off.  "That's my boy," he praised, letting himself go after a few short, hard thrusts.  He leaned down to kiss him.  "Thank you."

"Welcome."  Xander flipped them over, cuddling him.  "Should've made it onto the couch."

Speed chuckled.  "Maybe," he agreed, giving him a squeeze.  "Tony, want to cuddle?"

"I'm going to get a washcloth to clean us up."  He went to do that.  He came back, wiping gently.  Then he laid behind Speed's back, cuddling him.  "He needs it.  He didn't get to see you being evil," he said at Xander's look over Speed's shoulder.

"I don't do it often."

"Which is why it made me so hot," Tony agreed.

Xander blew a kiss.  "I'll keep it rare so I don't really die from the great sex."  Speed snickered and nodded.  He kissed them both.  "Did they get into dinner?"

"Yup," Tony agreed. "We'll try to salvage some of it.  Or I'll order pizza."

"Pizza's nice," Speed agreed.  The computer beeped.  "Crap, I was on with Eric."

Xander got up and wandered over, seeing the frantic calls.  He typed in 'tony came home with issues over Xander being evil and mean today.  On the floor cuddling.  Brb 30 mins' then he left it there.  He walked back there, getting back into his spot.  "I told him to give you thirty minutes because Tony had issues about me being mean and evil."

"Yes, and that issue is now sated, happy, and hungry."  Tony pulled out his phone, then patted Xander down.  "Phone?"  Xander mumbled and it came flying in.  "Thanks."  He dialed the local pizza place.  "Supreme good, Speed?"

"No olives."

"Works for me," Xander agreed.

"Hey, it's Xander's house.  Yeah, us.  Supreme,  no olives, two please.  No, the dogs ate the roast we had resting.  Sure, I can do that.  Thanks, ma'am."  He hung up.  "They'll bring it out to the bottom of the driveway in forty."  Xander groaned.  "I'll walk."

"You've had two, I had one, and I'm younger," Xander offered.  Tony found his wallet and tossed it over.  "How much?"


Xander pulled that out, giving them each a kiss before pulling on his pants and going to find out how bad the kitchen had been messed up.  He jogged out at the honk, only sliding a little bit.  He paid the driver, got the tip from his own wallet, and took the pizzas with a cheery wave for the nice teenager.  He walked back in.  "Food!" he called.  The dogs barked.  "You two've already eaten," he said, frowning at them.  "No more getting into the people food."  He put the pizzas on the end table in there, then went to get sodas.  He came back, helping his poor, tired lovers off the floor, letting them settle in on the couch with him between them.  The computer beeped so Speed groaned and went to start chatting again.

"Tell him I'm making you eat food," Tony offered.

"I did.  He's laughing."  He came back for his pizza and kisses, going back to the computer. "H said hi, guys."

"Hi," they said, waving at the computer.  Speed typed in shaking his head.

Tony stole a kiss from Xander, smiling at him.  "We made the director drink, Fornell drink, and you should have the money from that sale of the old weapons tomorrow."  Xander smiled.  "Now, what did you steal off her?"

"Everything she had on her system.  I made copies and mailed you one on the way back."  Tony smiled at that.  "I had to buy a few DVDs."

"That's fine.  Anything we can use?"

"Lots and lots. Including how she tampered with some evidence in LA and Miami.  She was in school down there until the NSA got her."  He stole another kiss.  "I sent a DVD set down to Horatio too."

"I'll let Eric know that.  Did you send it to the lab?"  Xander nodded.  Speed typed that in.  "He said thanks.  He wants pictures of you two."

"As long as I've got at least a little bit of clothes on," Xander said with a wink at him.

Speed looked at him.  "He might get jealous.  I'll save those for my house."  Tony looked at him.  "I'm going to try, Tony, but I'm not sure if I can stay down there or not."

"We could use you, Speed.  Gibbs would drill you in guns, but we could use you."

"I want to see Gibbs and Horatio have a stare-down over him," Xander said.

"That's almost an evil thought," Speed admitted.

"Give me time before he has another evil one," Tony ordered.  "I need time to recover."  He ate a bite of sausage.  Xander kissed him and stole a mushroom.  "Hey!"  He took one of Xander's.  "Eat more of your own."

"I could nibble you."

"I still need time to recover.  Speed's the one with the amazing recovery speed."  Xander leered at Speed.

"Oh, no.  I'm still soft, Xander.  You eat more pizza and we'll play with you later in the tub."  Xander let out a small whoop and got another piece of pizza to eat.  He'd need the energy.  Speed typed in something to Eric, making him snicker.  "I told him about your desire to see Gibbs and Horatio stare each other down.  He said to steal me for real and you'd get it."

"I can magic all your stuff up here," Xander offered.  "You might have to get the bike though."

"We'll work that out if I stay up here instead of commuting to be with you."  Xander grinned. "Eat more, Xander.  Oh, Eric was complaining that Anya made his stamina grow too."

"I was like this before Anya," Xander said smugly.  "That's how I kept up with her demands.  How is he doing with the demand for four or more orgasms a night?"

Speed typed that in and Eric moaned.  Speed laughed.  "He sent back a moan.  Oh, and now it's 'toys good'.  Should I tell him anything about her?"  Xander got up with a small moan, coming over to type something in about his ex that had went to Miami.  Speed watched Xander's butt flex while he typed since he was bent over his lap.  Eric sent back another moan.  Xander cackled and kissed Speed, sneaking a bite of his pepperoni.  "Mine.  Go eat your own."  He swatted him.  "Go eat, Xander."  Xander walked back to the couch, curling up against Tony's side while he nibbled his own piece of pizza.  "We can't play in the tub unless you eat."  Xander inhaled that piece and got another one.  "Good boy."  He smiled at the screen, going back to talking to Eric about the friend stuff.  He even gave him a way to dump her without her being able to claim she was hurt by him so she could get her powers back.  Xander started to shift so Speed wrapped it up and came over to pull Xander up.  "Go run us some bubbles."  Xander whooped and headed upstairs, going to start the big tub.

Tony shook his head.  "We created a sex fiend."

"I did," Speed agreed happily.  "A very good one."  He hauled Tony up, taking the pizzas with him.  They could nibble after they had their next romp too.


Speed walked into his lab the day after he got back, looking around.  "Nothing seems to have changed," he said.  Calleigh squealed and gave him a hug.  "Ow!  I've got bruises there, Calleigh.  Xander squeezed too hard."   She smiled at him, swatting him gently.  "I'm seeing if I'm back."

"We'll have to steal you if you go back up there," she complained.

"Yeah, but they're up there."

"They?"  She gave him a look.  "They?"

"You scarily look like Alexx at the moment. Where's everyone else?"

"The break room hiding."  She walked him that way.  "Look who I pounced."

Horatio smiled at Speed.  "Welcome back."

"Horatio, he said he's seeing if he's staying."

"Calleigh, he has found a worthy lover."

"He said they, Horatio."

"They?  Really?" Eric asked, smirking at him.

"Like I didn't tell you."

"You didn't tell me," Alexx pouted.  Speed gave her a hug.  "They?"

"Remember Xander?"

"Hearing you talk about Xander.  I wasn't here the day he was almost arrested for being himself.  He even hid when I came to visit you in the hospital."   Speed sighed and pulled out pictures to show her.  "Well, he's adorable!  Who's the other guy?"

"Tony DiNozzo.  NCIS agent.  We both helped Xander with the house."  She smiled at him.  "It's a beautiful job, Alexx."  He handed over pictures of that and the dogs and cat.  "The cat's Queen Scruffy.  Xander said he took her home because she reminded him of me."

"She certainly does," Horatio agreed, smiling at him.  "They could come down here."

"Tony likes his job.  Xander's got the huge house.  Tony said if he had to quit we'd start a consulting firm since he does the same job."

Horatio patted him on the back.  "Then your Xander would get his wish of Gibbs and I facing off over you living up there."

"We could live down here part of the year," Speed teased.  "Then it'd seem very naughty to Xander."

Alexx gave him a hug.  "I want to meet these boys."

"Next big holiday he said we could all go up there."

"Good!"  She patted him on the cheek.  "We've got food and cake coming, sweetie.  Sit down, let us baby you."

"I'm fine, Alexx.  I did all my PT, I took a lot of walks around the woods with the dogs."

"You had to pounce Xander to keep him from being bored," Eric teased.

"You knew!" Calleigh complained.

"Yeah, I was chatting with him when Xander got pounced.  He had to take a break to help."  He looked at Speed.  "It worked by the way."

"Good job."  He let Eric have the pictures of the house.  "It used to be this half-house, like when they move houses and have to cut them in half.  He built around it and took out the original walls.  Now they're doing a garage with a storage area."  Horatio made him sit down.  "I'm really fine.  I've got the paperwork clearing me and everything."

"Let's take that slowly, sweetie.  We don't want to tire you out," Alexx offered.

Speed looked at her.  "What do you think Xander did?"  She laughed and swatted him.  "Really!  Even the sheepdog kept trying to wear me out.  Though, I have found someone who dresses worse than I did when I was a level one CSI.  I'm in love with Xander, I don't know why but I love him in spite of his wardrobe.  New or old.  Tony tried but well, it's Xander."

Eric patted him on the back.  "You'll straighten him out like we did your clothes," he promised.  Speed showed him a picture, making him nod.  "Yup, I remember you having many shirts like that when I first met you, Speedle.  Damn."

Horatio laughed, shaking his head.  "Dressing like that is a fault of the young, Eric.  We fixed Speed's clothes, we can fix Xander's when Speed brings him down."

"Then what'll Tony do?" Speed asked.

Horatio looked at him.  "We might be able to work that out."

"Uh-huh.  We all want popcorn when you and Gibbs talk about this stuff, H.  Really, we do.  There's even enough room at the house for visitors.  He put in four guest rooms."

"So you spent that whole long vacation you took up there helping him build his house?" Calleigh asked.  Speed nodded.  "Wow.  That's an old fashioned way to make a home."

"It is but it was fun too.  He nearly made me fall off a ladder a number of times laughing at some of the stories he told.  Tony did fall off the ladder once he was laughing so hard.  He did everything but the new heater system.  That ended up being replaced after he was finished.  It works very well.  I ran around in boxers for the last week because Xander had the sniffles and had the heat up."

"That's going to be expensive," Calleigh complained.

"Propane heat, Cal.  Plus three fireplaces.  He planted himself in front of one under an old quilt he found somewhere.  He learned how to do firewood and all that good stuff.  He's got a pickup truck now.  Bought it during his first snow storm.  He panicked a bit.  There's enough supplies in the house to last through a good hard month of snow."  One of the techs walked in the food order.  "Thanks, man."

"Welcome, Speed.  Good to have you back."  He patted him on the back.  "So, how long before you get back into the field?"

"A few weeks probably.  I'm cleared for lab work."

"As soon as I get it from our doctor down here or Alexx," Horatio ordered.

"Fine," he complained. Calleigh handed him a plate of food.  "Thanks, Cal."

"You're welcome."  She smiled at him.  "I'm happy to have you back."

"I noticed when you pounced me."  She swatted him.  "You pounced and squealed."  He ate a bite.  "Oooh, good food."  He ate another bite.  "Eat, guys."

"Did you get in trouble up there?" Alexx asked.

Speed looked at her. "No comment."

They all gaped. "Excuse me?" Horatio asked.

"Helping Tony, he-who-gets-head-injuries, H.  Other than that, no comment."  He stuffed his mouth again.

"It sounds like I should be calling Jethro," Horatio said, staring Speed down.

"He'll deny that one."

"*That* one?" Eric asked.

"Xander had to handle a zombie that someone woke up in a museum.  I got drug along on that too."  He shrugged.  "That's his thing.  I find him hot when he's using his sword."  He stuffed his mouth again.

"Maybe we should make Xander and this Tony guy move down here," Alexx said, making Calleigh nod.

"They might get into the same trouble down here," Eric complained.  "Then we'd have to see it happening."

Speed grinned.  "Xander offered to hack my parents for me."

"That's nice of him but mean," Alexx reminded him.

"So?  It was a nice offer."

"It was, baby.  Eat anyway.  You obviously got too worn out up there."  Speed snickered, shaking his head but he did go back to eating.  "Did you get to drag them to the museums?"

"I did.  Xander lives just under an hour outside of DC's downtown.  I got to drag him everywhere with me.  We hit all the big museums, found some smaller ones.  Xander found a taste in art that I can stand.  Tony thinks it's a bit surreal but he'll accept it.  Xander threatened to tell his father off for being an asshole too.  He's a very sweet boy, Alexx."

"I'm sure I'll find that out when I get to meet the boy," she promised.  "Do not make me nag, Speedy."

"I'm eating!  You missed it," he said before taking a bite.  "Every time Xander makes a roast something happens.  The first time I got shot so it burned.  The second time the dogs got into it while we were cuddling.  The last time Tony passed out on the couch and Xander forgot it was cooking to fuss over him.  Tony moaned for hours over being fussed over.  It was only a little graze.  Then the dogs got the burned roast, making them happy pooches."  He ate another bite at Horatio's look.  "Any cake?  I had to keep Xander from his sugar habit before he bounced us into traction."

"Again?" Eric teased.

"Nearly.  That night we were chatting it was close."

Horatio added more food to Speed's plate, considering the implications of forcing him to stay in Miami.


Jethro looked up from his working on his boat as someone came down the stairs.  "How did you get here, Xander?"

"Tony.  He's waiting outside.  Can you go threaten Horatio so we can have Speed back?"

"Isn't that up to Speedle?" he asked patiently.

"Yeah but they're trying to make him stay.  They think he got into trouble up here."

"I won't even mention the hostage situation, the zombie you two ran into while out running around, or the case where he was helping us and nearly got shot again," Gibbs said dryly.  "Or the one I don't want to think about with the bimbos who wanted to turn you all straight again."

"Not our fault," he pouted.  He sat on the stairs, giving him the dreaded big eyed puppy look and a pout.  "I want my other one back too."

"I'm sure he'll be back soon enough, Xander.  If it's really love you'll work it out."

"We wanted you and Horatio to work it out so we didn't have to be split up.  We wanted popcorn while you guys worked it out but we wanted you two to help us."

"If he comes up I will, Xander."  Xander nodded, still looking miserable.  "You guys will work it out.  If it's love and meant to be you'll work it out."

"But it sucks."

"Yeah," he agreed, looking at him.  "I know you're not used to having anything go your way, that's why you want to cling to him since you found him, but he'll come back, Xander.  You know he will."

"Horatio could get him killed this time."

"I heard it was faulty gun maintenance."

"His firing pin.  Calleigh did an in-depth check and it was."

"That can happen.  He'll come back.  You know he will."

"But I want it to be soon."

"You sound like a toddler."  Xander pouted worse.  "Now you look like one," he said patiently.

"Can't you and Horatio talk?"

"I have once.   I told him Speedle was fine and behaving up here."

"If he comes up can you help him find a job?"

"I can do that."

"Thank you."

"You came all the way out here to pout at me about him being gone and ask me to help find him a job?"  Xander nodded. "You could have called."

"I can't pout over the phone."

"Good point.  You shouldn't pout anyway."  He gave his head a shove.  "Go back to Tony.  Make sure he can make it to work tomorrow."

"Um, too late?" he asked sheepishly.  "Oops."

"That's it, I'm taking custody of DiNozzo."  He walked him up the stairs and outside.  "DiNozzo!"  Tony climbed out of the car with a wince.  "What did you do to yourself?"

"I was cheering him up, boss."

Gibbs pointed inside.  "On the couch, DiNozzo.  All night.  He can drive himself home."

Xander looked at him.  "How do I get home from here?  Tony was driving."

"Go left, hit the main road, hit the highway, you can find it from there," he said patiently walking Xander over to the truck and making DiNozzo go inside. "Night, Xander."

"Night, Gibbs.  Sorry, Tony."

"It's all right, Xander.  I'm fine.  I'll see you tomorrow night."  He waved.  "He'll pout all night at the dogs."

"I still need you able to work."

"As long as I get some sleep I should be fine, boss.  I was the last time."

"The last time you had a nap over lunch."

"Well, yeah, but that was lunch."

"Go inside, DiNozzo."  Tony pouted all the way inside, making him shake his head.  He hated it when his agents fell in love.  They all went funny in the head for a while.  He'd be smacking Tony for the next few months to get him straightened back out.  He went back down to his basement to work on the boat some more, thinking about the idea to call Horatio.


Horatio watched Speed wander around the lab like a ghost, frowning at him.  This was not a happy boy.  Alexx was going to scream at him soon.  He watched Eric and the new guy come over to try to get Speed to joke with them, wincing when the new guy did.  It looked like Speed hadn't slept again.  He walked down there, nodding the other boys out.  "Speed, troubles sleeping again?"

"Yeah.  Maybe I need more than the cat."

"I didn't know you had a cat."

"Yeah, I have a junior version of Queen Scruffy at home.  Shorter haired, just as much attitude.  Only mine'll come down off the fridge because there's no sheepdog there to lick her bald."  He leaned on the counter. "It's not like it was."

"I've noticed. You just ripped Eric a new one, Speed."

"Sorry, Horatio."  He looked at him.  "I don't know what's wrong.  I'm like some teenage girl and I hate it about myself."

"I know, but sometimes love can be like that."  He moved closer.  "Did you call them?"

Speed grinned.  "Gibbs made Tony sleep on his couch because Xander made him sore again.  Gibbs even made him drive home alone."

"You're not happy," Horatio said quietly.

"It's not that I'm not happy but I'm not content.  It's...nothing's changed but something so tangible has that I can't identify.  It's not the work, it's not you guys, it's not the injury or only being in the lab.  That all feels the same.  I can't tell what's different."

"You're different, Speed.  What satisfied you before doesn't the same way now."  He shifted a bit closer, smiling a little bit.  "Before it was like you were living on fast food and it was good, it was okay, you could survive.  But then someone showed you a crown roast with all the trimmings.   You can go back to fast food...."

"But it's never the same as the roast."

"It's not."

"I can't ask him to move, H."

"I know, Speed.  If we were closer I'd break the call-in rule for you but Washington's a bit too far away for that."

"Yeah, by days driving."  He shook his head.  "I'm screwed up."

"It's not you, it's the love."

"I don't want to give it up, Horatio.  Any of it."

"Then you've got to live like this, Speed."  Speed shook his head, looking down at the evidence he had been working on.  Horatio patted him on the back.  "I think it's time we all talked a bit.  You and me, Jethro and the boys up there."  Speed frowned at him.  "We don't want to let you go, Speed, so we're going to have to work out something before you quit."

"Can we do that tonight?"

"We can, Speed.  We'll do that tonight.  I'll call Jethro now so he has time to get Xander in on it."

"Without Xander.  He'll get mushy and emotional."  He looked at him again.  "Xander never had so now he clings.  That's why Tony's been so sore recently," he said quietly.  "Even he agreed it's time to make Xander quit pouting for now."

"Love has driven any number of men insane, even the toughest of the tough.  Even guys who've seen combat, Speed.  Especially those who've never had it."  Speed slumped.  "So we need to include him in that and it could help to hear your voice."

"We had phone sex last night, H."

"Beyond that, Speed.  The most fundamental of things is touch."

"He's so cuddly," he said quietly.  "He'll curl into you and use you as a pillow."

Horatio smiled.  "He'll calm down when he realizes it won't leave him."  He patted him again.  "Let me call Jethro.  We'll talk to everyone tonight after shift.  Cases willing."  He walked off, heading up to his office.  He found Calleigh in there.  "I know."

"He's not happy."

"It's not that he's not happy, Calleigh, it's that he had something that moved him to the point of changing him.  Now he's gone cold turkey and it's not helping him very much."

"I'm trying, Horatio."

"There's nothing we can do, Calleigh.  I'm going to call up there to help him and the other two."

"I can't wrap my mind around him having two boys.  I mean, I saw Xander for a few minutes and he was kind of cold to me."

"He told you he reacted poorly to women, Calleigh.  He was in a stressful situation.  Speed just told me he's someone who'll sink into cuddles and use you as a pillow."  She smiled at that.  "I've got it."  She nodded, going back to her lab.  He sat down to call DC.  "Jethro Gibbs please."  He waited.  "McGee?  I asked for Jethro.  Is he going to be in the meeting very long?"   He leaned back, smiling.  "I understand those."  The hissed comment made him shudder.  "I'm so sorry for him, McGee.  No, not a crossover case.  I've got a ghostly Speedle down here who can't sleep.  How's Tony doing?"  The concise 'he's sucking the fun out of the ret of us' made him smile. "Then it seems to be unanimous.  Tell Jethro that I'll call back tonight around five with Speedle here if he can corral Tony long enough.  All right?  Also tell him good luck dealing with that situation.  Thank you, McGee."  He hung up and relaxed, closing his eyes for a minute.  There had to be some solution to the problem.


Jethro looked up at the man who walked into his basement.  "You made good time."

"Speed showed me the site Xander uses for travel.  It's much cheaper."  He sat down on the stairs.  "A boat?"

"It's good when I'm feeling frustrated."

"I sit on the beach and stare at the ocean," Horatio admitted.  "I brought Speed up with me.  It'd be cruel otherwise."

"As long as DiNozzo can work tomorrow. We're in the middle of a case."  He looked over then went back to work.  "You came up with a solution?"

"I may have," Horatio told him.   He leaned on his knees.  "Your team does the same job my team does, Jethro."  That got a nod but Gibbs continued to sand.  "The problem is that they're not up to date on what the rest of the forensic world does."  That got him to stop and a heated look.  "I have nearly a decade worth of technology and tricks that can help your team do what mine does."

Gibbs stared at him for a minute.  "So we could do some crosstraining," he said finally.  Horatio nodded.  "That would probably qualify both of us for travel grants through Homeland."

"It would.  I checked with a contact.  I also got told to say my prayers for dealing with you," he said with a slight grin.  "Then I reminded him who I was and he decided it was just as bad down in Miami."  He leaned a little bit forward.  "Your team has no lab experience.  They could use it.  My team has a lot of field experience and a lot of lab experience.  I've got three people who should have a lab team of their own now but no room for it.  By making my team train yours in what we do, or even switching off for a little while if necessary, you'd get our heightened experience.  My team would get new ideas and more access to military fields, which we don't deal with very often.  Now and then we get a veteran but nothing else.  I was thinking we could arrange it so we switched out a member of your team for mine.  Two would probably drive you insane.  You could send one down, I'd send one up.  Probably Eric or Calleigh to start."

"Xander would be destroyed."

"Xander's off work until this spring, correct?"

"He is, but he loves his house."

"Then we could arrange it so Speed comes up first.  He seems to have a history of helping your team."

"Oh, he does, but then I'd have to send you the newbie."

"Send us McGee first, Gibbs.  He's more trained and helping train him will help you train her later.  He told me," he said at the opening mouth.  "Eric would kill her if she has that many harsh edges."  That got a nod.  "Calleigh might as well.  So we'll send Speed up, you'll send us McGee.  Say, six months?"

"I can maybe see that.  Which field is Calleigh in?"

"Ballistics."  That got a smile. "She'll dance and sing if she gets to visit all the artillery up here.  That also means my team can take advantage of some of the advanced training you guys can go to if you want."

"True.  How is she at training?"

"Good.  She helped Speed and I train Eric.  She's training the new guy we've got."  Gibbs snorted.  "Minor OCD."

"Wonderful," he said flatly.

"He jumps into things, it makes him thorough, but so far it hasn't affected anything in the labs.  He's good at what he does.  He spent years in patrol and did his masters at night."

"You expect a lot from your people."

"I do, and with some partial training I can move your guys closer to mine.  Calleigh can show you what we've got down there.  While up here she can help your team, whatever Speed didn't.  I'd go in the order of seniority.  Speed, Calleigh, Eric.  Then you could send yours in the same order.  That way the new people would have the best teaching from a lot of senior sources."

"So, I'd get Speed, you'd get McGee.  Then I'd get Calleigh, you'd get DiNozzo, and I'd get a moping Xander."

"It'd be mostly over the winter," Horatio pointed out.  "He could snow bird."

"He could.  I doubt he'd mind that.  Snow freaked him out that first day.  He told Tony he went to the bank and had a panic attack about stocking up."  Horatio smiled at that.  "That's how he ended up with the ancient pickup truck.  So you'd get McGee while Speed trained us in what he's doing and seeing, plus getting training in.  Then I'd get the cocky female up here."

"Who will not put up with crap from any other woman."

"Which will thrill my director to no end but oh well.  Ziva could use it.  Then we've got to switch DiNozzo down there for six months while I get her.  Then we could do Ziva and Eric?"

"It'll be a gift by that time," Horatio said with a smile.  "We'll work out the trio situation after that somehow I'm sure."

"That could work.  I'll have to propose it to the director.  She thinks Tony just lives with them," he said quietly.

"I've heard.  I also heard how she reacted when she thought you were seeing Xander."  Gibbs snickered and nodded.  Horatio stood up.  "I'm at an indecently expensive hotel downtown.  My bosses like the idea.  For some reason we have a bad reputation for not working with federal agencies very well.  I don't know why," he said with a small smirk.

"They all give up when they hear my name now.  It saves me aggravation," Gibbs offered.  "You think it'll work?"

"For at least a year."

"I could handle that.  Then we'd work it out.  I'll see you tomorrow.  Do you have it in formal speak?"

"I do.  I heard she was a bit political."

"Just a bit, like the boat will almost fit in a bottle," Gibbs agreed.

"I'll keep that in mind.  I've got an appointment at nine."  He smiled as he walked off, letting himself out.

Gibbs considered it then went back to work on his boat.  That would solve all his problems, even if Tony did end up sore a few more times at first.  They could deal with that when it happened.


Horatio smiled at the director, shaking her hand.  "Thank you for seeing me, Madam Director."

"It's an interesting proposition.  How did you come up with it?"

"Since my CSI was up here healing, he got to know your best team and helped them a few times.  He noted that your people are scene techs but a bit behind in some areas, but they're ahead of us in others.  Since we are one of the top labs in the country and there are already close friendship ties between us, it was suggested it would be easier this way."

"In other words, Speedle wants to be closer to his boyfriend?" she suggested.

"That is one factor that would have me sending him first, but he also noticed your techs had missed a lot of evidence the scene he worked with them."  She sat up at that.  "My techs are scene techs first and then investigators.  We do a great deal of the investigative work but there was a lot of information that he got that Gibbs wasn't aware could be gotten.  Not that it's a shortcoming of Jethro's.  He's focused on the investigative end more than the scene end."

"Don't yours do more lab work?"

"We do process all our own samples if at all possible.  We also have techs in there for when it's not.  Speedle happens to be one of the top trace techs in the country at this point, especially in soil identification via geographic markers and geology.  Whereas your teams look for things like fingerprints, we find them in much smaller areas, we also pull more of them from scenes to be processed and more varied samples, including fluid samples that he found with a light system that Gibbs' team didn't have access to before that case.  With that new information your teams' solve rates would go up and you could also think about putting some on cold case duties for a while if you wanted to.  It would give my team time to go to some of the lectures and symposiums given by the various federal agencies to keep them the top in their field, but also give them the opportunity to train, which they all do very well, and to do a bit more in the leadership area.  You see, there's not going to be a lab opening for a while, God willing to not have a lab head die, and I've got three ready for some sort of leadership role."

"By sending them up to Jethro he can make sure they lead, yet still learn from them."

"Also, it would help since both our teams have people who're new to the field.  My newest field tech has a masters and patrol experience.  We have talked to Gibbs about Officer David's training and think we could help him teach her what she needs to know for crime scene processing versus investigative work, which is where a normal CSI excels."

"Do your detectives do anything?"

"We do it cooperatively.  We question, we interrogate, we chase down, we arrest the same as the detectives do.  Most of my people are detectives actually."  He smiled a gentle smile. "I prefer my people with patrol experience.  We're thinking within two years we'd have this team to the point where they could easily teach others, and I'm sure if the techs were asked nicely enough they would feel free to teach some forensic lectures for the other teams as well.  I know Calleigh, Speed, and Eric all give some at the local university in Miami.  My newest tech took all three of them over the course of his masters training."

"What's his degree in?"

"A bachelor's in chemistry and a masters in genetics.  He's in trace, the same as Speedle is."  She nodded at that.  "He needs a firm guiding hand at the moment but he needs a bit of a different personality now and then too.  That's why we wanted to switch Speedle for McGee this first switch.  McGee could easily show me where we needed to up our computer techs.  Right now, Mr. Wolfe is handling a case that involves some hacking, even though he doesn't and only one of my techs can in a mild way.  He could help me vet where I needed an opinion and come back with the same knowledge Speedle is giving up here, plus an understanding of how the others work as well.  I have a fairly varied team.  My third in command, Calleigh, is from New Orleans and a top ballistics tech.  She'd be the next one up and we'd switch her for DiNozzo.  We feel by that time the team could use some refinement of what they've been taught.  She's better at the small details whereas Speedle's better at the coddling new techs into doing what they're supposed to in a similar manner as Jethro does."

"He's agreed to this plan?"

"He has.  We agreed to the various switches last night.  If there's going to be a third one I'd give you Eric Delko and we'd get Ziva to finish her education in the finest points of forensics and investigative work, plus letting her work in an ethnically diverse area.  Miami is third to New York for diversity.  Especially in the rich/poor divide."

"How would we fund this plan?"

"Homeland security has tentatively agreed that this would be a trial program worthy of a grant.  That it'd be a way to look at future training methods for inter-departmental work up here.  I know a few other labs who might help with it if asked.  I think Mac in New York's felony lab would if asked.  He's a former Marine sharpshooter as well."  She smiled at that.  "I'm not sure if Gibbs knows him or not, but he also works with a very diverse crowd."

"Ziva's worked in Central Europe before."

"Yes, but to be truthful, did she get along with them?" he asked.  "Jethro has pointed out that she's very...unnatural in her dealings with people of other races.  She's stiff, she doesn't know how to address them.  She often puts others ill at ease during witness statements.  This would help her as much as it would the others.  Since he said you wanted her trained by the best, the combination of the two teams is the best she can get."

"Las Vegas is supposed to be a better lab."

"A more diverse lab.  They and New York's lab do more cases because they have more crime.  Las Vegas is a non-sorted lab, they do both felonies and non-felonies.  New York has a sorted lab but an astronomical crime rate.  We have a lower crime rate and a lot more time to deal with new technology and train others.  We've had a lot of fun training interns in the past, Director.  We enjoy it.  Speedle has enjoyed training Eric and now Ryan.  Calleigh came to us already trained," he said at her opening mouth.  "She came out of New Orleans' system."  She nodded at that.  "Speedle has trained half of the night and swing shift people when they were new.  Calleigh's helped train most of them as well.  They both trained Eric together with me.  If you look at our statistics, we have a very high percentage of solve rates within two weeks time.  That equals your teams, who usually only have one or two cases open at a time.  We generally have five or six apiece but we clear fast and accurately."

"So this would give your team a leg-up in the technology seminars and it would give my teams a boost.  What's the downside?"

He smiled.  "Having to watch Jethro deal with a tech like Calleigh?  Who is very self- assured, doesn't take crap from anyone, and will make sure that everyone around her knows that she's better than any man in the field.  She has in the past.  She's one who had to prove herself a number of times.  She's always done so."

"I can handle that."

"That alone would help your new agent."

"It would," she agreed.  "Ziva could use that sort of example.  Of course, I could counter by sending Tony down there with Ziva."

"Then you'd give her culture shock.  Total immersion is fun but not always productive when you're learning a difficult subject.  She's still getting used to America.  Doing it this way Speedle could coddle her where needed and let Jethro smack her around the other times.  Then Calleigh would do the refining work and help your lab techs up their own lab skills.  I know Abby's the tops in many fields but I've heard you're looking for a new one?  Calleigh is my hiring committee.  She brings them to me and I talk with them.  Her judgement has not failed me yet."

"Interesting.  I have been thinking Abby needed an assistant."

"My techs could take some of that work off her while still helping investigate.  That's what we do."

"Good point.  You've also worked high profile, politician, and international cases I assume?"

"All of the above and Miami has a reputation for doing what's necessary, even if sometimes the agents who are sent down don't like it very much."

She smiled. "I heard.  They rank you up there with Gibbs and Fornell for not liking to work with you."  She nodded.  "I'll consider this.  Did you let Speedle off his leash?"

"I don't need a leash for Speed, Director.  I never have.  He's always been more about the work than about his personal life.  I didn't even know he had a cat until he got injured."  She snorted.  "He keeps his personal life out of the lab most of the time.  Him being happy makes others happy, so I did let him come up.  It made him feel better."

"Fine."  She pushed a button on her phone. "Jethro, can you come up here please?"  She hung up.  "When can we get the funding started?"

"Since Speedle has housing already set up and the techs do make an equitable amount of money we could trade until it's set up."

"We do?"

Horatio nodded. "I think Speed makes about fifteen hundred more than McGee does actually."

"You pay well."

"That's because I only hire the best."  Jethro walked in.  "How much does McGee make?"

"Not that much.  He's barely out of Probie range.  What do your boys make?"  Horatio showed it to him in the paperwork.  "Wow, you guys pay better."

"That's because I only hire the best."  He looked at her.  "If I had to, I could arrange for Speedle's pay to continue up here, the same as you could pay McGee for being down there until it's set up."

"We could.  Would he be willing to sublet his apartment?"

"I'm sure he could arrange that," Horatio agreed.  "I'd let the techs work that out themselves.  It's always better that way."

"If that's what you want.  Jethro?"

"I like the idea.  He's right, that case Speedle worked with us he found evidence we didn't know was possible.  We don't have all the toys they do down there."

"Good point.  Would we have to up our... toys?"

"You're a Federal agency, I'm sure you could talk the FBI's lab into letting you borrow some of their spare gear or doing some sort of switch," Horatio offered.  "Even we borrow gear sometimes."

"We could do that.  Would this help us in the war against terrorism?"

"We do handle some of those cases but I have more drugs, cartel lords, gang members, and those sort of home-grown terrorists down in Miami, Director.  You'd be surprised at the damage a tweaker can do when they set their mind to it."

"They have been known to bomb things," Gibbs agreed.  "You're also dealing with a street war situation in some areas, right?"

"We are.  We also spend a lot of time dealing with the inter-nationality clashes every year.  Mostly in gang related incidences but not always.  We do get some hate crimes as well."

"Nothing like blowing up the Pentagon by plane," the director said.

"It's the same skills, only yours are applied internationally and ours down there are home- grown and mostly native."

"It's a good point, Jen, and it'll keep my team sharp and help the other teams sharpen up as well.  They know what the other investigative agencies use when they have cases and how they pull evidence.  They can tell the other teams who want to ask them.  Plus this would take some of the stress off Abby now and then."

"Fine.  I'll agree to this on a one year basis."

"That would be acceptable.  That would get us through the first two switches," Horatio agreed.

"That's fine.  You two work it out.  When is Speedle starting?"

"That depends on when we can get McGee down there."

"Abby can do the hacking things and I can call on Harris if I have to," Gibbs pointed out.  Horatio nodded.  "You don't have hackers?"

"I don't usually need hackers.  I could use one who had the skills now and then.  I have one who's good enough to crack source code in video games and programs.  I think McGee can help me with that while he learns."

"He probably can."  He nodded.  "Come on, we'll go talk to McGee."

"Of course.  Thank you for your time, Director Sheppard."  He nodded politely and left with him.  "Team meeting?"

"In Abby's lab," he agreed.  "DiNozzo, meeting, lab," he called as they walked down the stairs.  They headed that way before he got to the bottom, letting them follow up.  He looked at Horatio in the elevator.  "What about the housing?"

"Speed will probably let him live in his place.  Speed can keep paying his rent.  McGee can keep paying his own rent.  Then we'd work something out for DiNozzo and Calleigh."

"DiNozzo's living with Xander."

"Calleigh lives in an apartment but so does Speed.  I don't know.  She's been talking about moving a few times."  He shrugged.  "She'll squeal if you can get her in to look at the new artillery and guns."

"I'm sure she will."  They walked out and into the lab.  Horatio looked around.  "I know but she does everything."

"That's why she's amazing," Horatio agreed.

Abby frowned at him.  "Who are you?"

He smiled.  "Horatio Caine, Miami-Dade, Miss Sciuto."  He shook her hand.  "We are going to be doing a tech switch between my team and Jethro's team."

"Does that mean I get to keep Speed?  Because I will pout if I don't get to keep Speed, and me plus Xander pouting is a horrible thing on this world."

"For six months," Jethro agreed.  McGee looked confused.  "You're going to Miami first."

"Wow.  So I'll go down there and learn more of the scene stuff, he'll come up here and teach?"

"And help Abby when she needs it," Horatio agreed.  Abby beamed at that.  "Then you'd come back, he'd hopefully come back and we'd get Tony while you got Calleigh."

"Oooh, I heard of her," Abby cooed.  "Bullet girl."

"Yes, she is," Horatio agreed.  "She'll want to go to all the ballistics lectures she can up here and she'd be willing to help refine the knowledge Tim leaves you with.  Usually I let Calleigh and Speed train every new tech.  They've trained half of night and swing shifts as well as Eric and the new kid on my own team."  He nodded at Ziva.  "They would be helping ground your skills in forensics plus the investigative edge."

"Why can't I learn from Gibbs?  Tony did," she complained.

"DiNozzo already had a good feel for crime scenes when I hired him, Ziva," Gibbs told her.  "McGee had none and he's still learning.  You're just starting out."

"They teach this stuff as a major in college," McGee told her.  Her face fell.  Horatio nodded.  "Your guys have to have a degree in forensics, right?"

"I prefer chemistry or physics for an undergrad and then a masters in a forensics related field.  Mr. Wolfe, my new hire, has his masters in genetics."

"Wow.  I did a triple bachelors to get here," Abby said in awe.

"We also investigate.  We're very hands-on with our detectives.  So this would not only train Ziva in the finer points of forensics but also the rest of the team where they had rough edges or no idea that new tricks or technology had come up."

"Name one thing," Ziva said.

Horatio looked at her.  "We have a test machine right now that not only scans in an imprint of body heat, but it's a full outline if it's somewhere like a seat so we can compare it to an actual body image.  We've used it to solve cases before."

"I've heard of that but it's an expensive toy," Abby told them.

"So, if I'm sitting in a chair, it'll take a picture of the residual heat I leave behind?" McGee asked.  Horatio nodded.  "And then you can compare that to an actual body or the picture, right?"

"We can.  It's to be used within two hours of the person moving.  Preferably sooner but sometimes the bad guys don't call immediately."  That got a smile from Jethro.  "They don't.  We also get a lot of water cases.  That's a specialty of Eric's.  Speedle is one of the top trace people in the country."  Ziva gaped at that.  Jethro nodded.  "He is.  He's trained nearly everyone on my shift, Officer David.  This would mean you'd get Jethro's ways but start out right on how to collect evidence.   Last month we got to fume a body for fingerprints.  We don't often get them that fresh but we broke the case with that."

"You can fume a body for fingerprints?" Jethro asked.

"Within an hour of them dying, yes.  Or if something on the body has preserved them."


"The same way you would on a wallet.  You set up a containment field and you use the same superglue fume."

"I had no idea you could do that."

"You can but it's in special use situations.  The body has to be fresh.  Under an hour if possible.  After that the skin oils break down.  We can pull fingerprints off most anything these days.  DNA as well.  Calleigh's gotten some out of some half-eaten fruit."

"I've read about doing that," Abby offered.  "Will they be allowed to teach me too?"

"Yes they would.  My top three people are all leadership capable but we won't have any open spots for a very long time, God willing.  They've all taught forensic seminars.  They've all helped train new techs.  Speed and Calleigh enjoy it, no matter how much Speed may grump about it."  That got a mass of smiles.  "So, McGee, I'll let you get with Speed to talk about the apartment stuff.  You'll be getting your salary from here and he'll get his from us. His apartment will be open so you might be able to live there.  Tony, you and Calleigh will work that out however."  Tony smiled and nodded.  "Where is Speed?"

"Being a scruffybear."

Horatio smiled.  "It'll be nice to see him happy again.  I'll expect him to keep being happy."  He stared him down, getting a nod.

"He's gay?" Ziva asked.

"Ten percent of the population is," Jethro said patiently.  "There's others in the building but we don't talk about it around here."

"That's because it's official military policy," Tony told her. "Don't ask don't tell."  He looked at Jethro.  "Are we on this weekend?  Speed'll have to fly back down, pack stuff, then ride his bike up here."

"I wonder if that means I'm getting Amonent again," Horatio said.   Tony looked confused. "Speed's cat.  He said she's a junior version of Xander's Queen Scruffy.  I got her over a few nights recently when Speed had to have his apartment sprayed."

"Oh, her.  He didn't tell me her name.  Maybe, I can call and see if he can answer the phone yet."

"I'm going out to spend the night with you before we fly back in the morning," Horatio told him.  "That way Speed has time to ride his bike up."

McGee smiled.  "Boss, want me to go this weekend since we've got call or next weekend?"

"Go this weekend.  It should be an easy one.  Tell Speedle no more jeans, Horatio."

"That's between you and him, Jethro.  I may not let him wear his Nirvana t-shirts anymore but Miami rules say you can wear jeans, McGee."  That got a nod.  "You can wear a suit if you want but I don't demand it."

"Thanks, Horatio.  I'll do my best and help where I can."

"I'll expect you to pull your own weight, Tim."

"I will."

"Good man."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Anything else we have to arrange today?"

"Not that I'm aware of.  You sure you want to go out there tonight?"

"I think, as Tim's friend, I should get to know his boyfriend."

"He's an interesting guy," McGee told him.  "Very interesting.  Just don't feed him chocolate or Tony won't be able to walk tomorrow after he plays with him."  Ziva gave Tony a horrified look.

"I live with the guy, Ziva.  Sometimes I've got to spare the dogs being worn out when he's that bouncy."  He smiled at Horatio.  "We'd love to have you.  You know that."  That got a nod.  "Out of your hotel?"

"I checked out this morning."


"Go ahead.  We're down for the day.  Keep your phones on.  Make sure Speedle gets a local number for his and he knows all the rules, including the dress code.  McGee, I'll let you arrange things when you come back tomorrow.  Today, go work out all the little details and the travel stuff."

"Yes, boss.  Thank you for letting me go."  He followed Horatio and Tony out.  "You think she'll be okay with Speed?"

"He taught Eric, he taught a number of them," Horatio said quietly.  "It'll be fine.  Even if he does have to wear her down about a few points first, boys."

"This means I can make Xander go shopping again," Tony realized.

McGee looked at him. "No more cutesy shirts, Tony.  Abby nearly stole one."

"That was his choice."

"I'm sure it was."

"Boys," Horatio warned.

"Won't happen again," they both agreed.   Horatio looked at them.  "Saying sorry is a sign of weakness," they recited in unison.

"I see.  That depends on what you're apologizing for."  Horatio slipped on his sunglasses and followed them out, handing in his visitors pass on the way past reception.

Later that afternoon, on the West Virginia/Maryland/DC Metro area border a squeal floated down from the backwoods of a small town.  The locals only smiled and agreed it was the sound of a happy boy who was about to build a two car/one bike garage.

The End.