From:     "Shadow"
Date:     Sat, 13 Jan 2007 02:43:48 -0600
Subject:  [imaginings] The unGolden

Requires major playing with time lines. There are five boys who are treated as the
UnGolden. They are constantly asked to conform to some standard that is unreachable.
They met and bonded at summer camp when they were 13. They stayed in touch through it
all and still meet when they can.

Xander  from Buffy
Danny   from CSI:NY
Greg     from CSI:LV
Ryan    from  CSI:M
Tony    from  NCIS

What moment would cause the other four to come rescue their injured/heartsick brother?
What affect would their wrath have on the so called friends of the one the come help?

Tony during the plague or after Ziva tricked the group into having a team dinner without
him.  Greg when he ran over the boy and the following inquest.  Danny after the
Tanglewood.  Ryan after his eye was nailed or the news crew got him Xander after his not
wedding or something worse down the line.  Would he claim them as pack?

There's a thought. They meet up again after summer camp at some national school
competition. The boys sneak out to the zoo and walk into a ritual but instead of hyenas the
get posessed by some other pack animal and remain in complete control of their minds but

Notes: since Buffy ended with Xander being approximate 22 and CSI:NY started about four years later, the timeline does work out.  That would put them all at around the same age group.

So let's start with some history, shall we?

The Ungolden.

The Past.

The camp counselors sighed when they looked at the pre-teen group.  It wasn't as full as usual and the kids in the group below couldn't really handle them.  Then again, there was one kid in that group that had already gotten into trouble for being a smartass.  Something they didn't like.  The group of pre-teens had a few of those.  So maybe they could cure the problem by putting them together?  Otherwise the two groups would end up at war and the older kids always won those and there were always injuries.  One of them went to talk to the head counselor, who signed off on the plan.  He came back to look at the kid who were in trouble.  "Since we know you five can't fit in with the other children, you're getting your own bunk house."  He gave them looks.  "I don't know if this will reinforce the behaviors or cure them but I do know that something has got to give, guys.  You should be in some other sort of home."

"Just because we don't want to be perky, perfect people doesn't mean that we're bad," one of them sneered.  "It means that we're not you, and being you sucks."

"Fine.  Whatever.  You guys are getting Donovan as your group counselor."

The youngest of the group raised his hand.  "If he touches me again can I kick him in the privates like last time?"

The counselor looked at him.  "I doubt he did that, Xander."

Xander nodded.  "He did and Henry witnessed it.  Told him to get off me.  That's why I got to kick him when he didn't quit."

"Whatever. I'll report it and if he does it again you tell Paul.  Okay?"  Xander nodded.

"Would that be before or after he kicks him?" the blond who had spoken first asked.

"After is fine," he sighed. "Let's get your stuff rearranged."  He took them to do that, putting them into the spare bunkhouse.  It had some spiders but they would probably torture them or something.  They were definitely wrong somehow.  They'd probably end up on America's Most Wanted some year so bugs were easily handled by them.  He went to check with Henry about what had happened and got told that he had indeed tried to touch the boy, mostly to drag him away from what he had been looking at, and Xander had indeed kicked him in the privates for it.   So it looked like next year he could get a counselor up there that he liked to work with.


Later that night the five of them sat looking at each other. "Listen, guys," Tony said, looking at them.  "This is only a partial exile and it'll be good for us.  They're trying to make us just like them and we're not. We may never be.  It's part of being born smart, okay?"

Xander shook his head.  "No I'm not."

"Yes you are," the others assured him.

Greg leaned over to hug him.  "Just because you're not book smart doesn't make you other sorts of smart, Xander.  Trust me, I'd rather be people and other area smart.  There's way too many smart people in the world for me to stand out."  Xander grinned at that.  "For now we'll watch out for each other.  No more druggie counselors who want us to do stupid things like carve toads."

"No more bead projects," Tony agreed with a small shudder.

"No more stupid people trying to get me to kiss the girls," Danny agreed.  "Why would I want to?  They're all sickening and giggly."

Xander nodded.  "Willow is too but she's an okay girl.  She sticks up for me now and then."  They all patted him. He looked at Ryan.  "Are you okay?"

"My parents wanted me to get right in the head, that's why they sent me here."

"Hey, you can clean stuff all you want around me," Xander promised.  "I don't like to and we've got to keep it neat anyway.  If you want you can do that.  We'll take on some of your chores."  Ryan beamed and nodded.

"I'll shelve the books and comics," Tony told them.

"I can do the beds," Greg agreed.  "My mom's anal about mine."

Ryan looked at him. "Is your mom a shrink for real?"

"Unfortunately.  Want a referral?"

"No thanks.  I've seen plenty," Ryan said, grimacing.  "They wanted me to be prozac normal too.  Couldn't stand the stuff."  They all hugged him.  "Xander, can you do the firewood stuff?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  Danny, I'll let you scout, okay?"

"Sure, I can do that," he agreed happily.  "We'll set up some way to tell us if someone's sneaking up on us."

"Can we sneak out and go swimming in the lake?" Xander asked.

"We should have a lifeguard," Tony reminded him gently.  "We could drown."

"I'm a good swimmer.  We all are," Xander protested.

"True," Tony agreed. "We'll switch off who goes in that night."  They all nodded and shook on it.  "Okay, now what're we doing?"

"I'm going to make a flame thrower to get the bugs under the building," Greg said, going to do that.  He snuck off, going to the craft house.  It was well past light's out and no one was up and around.  Even the counselors had turned in for the night since the counselors from the girls' camp across the lake couldn't sneak over tonight.  The others did what they needed to do then went to bed while he fixed the bug problem.  He was proud, he didn't even light the cabin on fire or get caught.  Then he curled up in his bunk.  It was time to sleep for a bit.  They could get up and do it all over again tomorrow.


By the end of the summer the boys were very tight.  They had gotten Ryan down to the point where he could wear colors that wouldn't show dirt.   They had gotten him to the point where his OCD was good enough that he could function somewhat normally.  Enough to pass for normal anyway.  Xander had gotten Greg onto the horses they had and had taught him how to take care of them with Tony's help.  Tony had gotten Greg and Ryan into a lot of trouble talking about girls.  Danny, well, he had avoided all the arts and crafts like the plague but he had excelled at the physical things with Xander.  By the time the parents came to pick their children up, their friendship had been cemented by changing all of them into a more assured person.  The counselors saw it as a good thing, mostly.  They still wouldn't conform to some standards that had been set.  Tony hated to wear a shirt.  Danny wasn't fond of them but he would wear them when necessary.  They had all decided Xander being a little heathen was his parents' fault.  Greg's mother was repressing him so much that the kid had needed to be freed from being scared of nagging women when he got a scrape.  Ryan's OCD was better and they were proud of the boys for that much alone.

Their counselor, who was not who it should be but the boys like him enough to come to him when Ryan had nearly died so they had adopted him, sat down with the parents.  "Hi, Mr. DiNozzo.  No wife this time?"

"She's ill and at home resting," he said blandly, looking at his son.  "How did he do this summer?"

"Decent.  He didn't like the arts and crafts this summer."

"Greg had a point.   You were having us desecrate Native American traditions by putting out fake beaded crap that they'd never have used," Tony protested.

"Fine.  You didn't like them because they were cheesy.  I get that, Tony," Henry assured him, smiling at him.  He smiled at his father as well.  "He was a good boy all summer outside of his distaste of arts and crafts.  A few good sunburns, some sneaking down to the lake to swim after hours with his bunkmates.  He was instrumental helping a young man in his cabin who had some emotional problems heal.  Overall it was a very productive summer."

"Did you get him to wear a shirt?" he asked dryly.

"Sometimes.  Some boys like the sun on their shoulders.  They're like plants, it makes them feel better.  The same sort often have issues with winter making them depressed.  You might want to watch out for that."

"I like snow.  I like all sports," Tony told him.  "I just don't like shirts.  They strangle me."

His father glared at him. "Shut up, Anthony."

"Yes, father."

Henry gave him a look. "He's been excellent all summer.  A real leader in his cabin.  He's done a lot of good work for us, Mr. DiNozzo. You should praise him for that."

"We'll see."  He got up and walked his son off, watching as he waved at a group of scrawny kids around his own age.  "Your group?" he asked grimly.

"Yup.  Greg's mom's a shrink.  Ryan's family is having a few things going on right now in Miami.  Xander's from California, by LA, and Danny's from New York City, Queens."  His father sighed and drug him off.  "I was good!  You wanted me to be good and I was!" he protested.

"You're still not allowed to associate with scum and not allowed to run around half-naked like some heathen brat," he complained. "You're making us all look bad."

"Whatever."  He got into the car and sulked the whole way home.

Xander looked around for his parents but he knew they weren't going to be there.  He and Ryan hung out since they were going to be bussed home to their families instead of being picked up.  Ryan grinned at him and Xander grinned back.  "It'll be okay.  We can still write."

"We can.  It'll make me feel better when I get home too."  They watched as Greg stormed out of the meeting area and over to them, giving him the comfort he needed.  They let him go and shrugged.  "We can still write."

"We can," Greg agreed, smiling at them.  "Because I'll need it.  My mother was horrified I got bug bites."

Xander leaned closer. "Trade ya?"

"No thanks.  She won't let me.  She's possessive."  Xander grinned at that.  "Wanna come home with us?  I could probably talk her into it and you're closer to us anyway."

"That's okay.  They might think they got lucky and file for my life insurance policy."  Greg snickered.  "Not kidding."  Greg's mother came out and looked around frantically.  "We're exchanging addresses, Mrs. Sanders."  He handed over one of the cards they had made.  It was the only arts and craft project they had done with everyone else.  "Here, that's mine, Ryan's is on the back.  This is Danny and Tony's," he said, finding those and handing them over. "That way we can keep in touch.  It'll be nice to have a male friend and penpal."

"We'll see, boys."  She walked Greg off.

Ryan looked at Xander.  "Thankfully we hid them all last night in our things."

"Thankfully," he agreed.  "It's going to suck going home."  They watched as Danny's father stormed out, waving at Danny, who grinned and waved back.  "Be good and send us pictures," he called.

"Sure, I can do that," he called back, smirking at Ryan.  "You, try to clean less."

"I'll try."  He beamed at the counselor when he came out.  "Our stuff is still in your car."

"Thanks, boys.  At least you guys got something out of this summer."

"Can I go live with Greg?" Xander asked.

"No, Xander.  We have to return you to your home unless there's a court order."

"Pity."  He slid off the fence, helping Ryan off since he was a bit smaller than him, even though he was older. "It time for us to go back to hell?"

"Yup.  Sorry, kids.  Wish this was year round."

"Then you'd never get to see your girlfriend, or the one you have back on campus," Ryan pointed out.  The counselor looked at him.  "You wouldn't."

"You're too smart for your own good, Wolfe."

"It happens I guess," he said blandly.  "Greg's smarter than me."

"I know.  That's some of what got you guys into trouble this summer."

"Are you sending notes home?" Xander asked.

"I should."

"Not like my parents will read it," Xander complained.

"It'll be in your hands, boys.  You can read them over first."  He handed them over. "There."  He drove them to the bus station, dropping them and their packs off.  He waved and headed back to pack his own things, ready to be done with this summer's camp.  That quint had driven him nuts sometimes.  But they had such fun so it didn't wear on you until they were gone.

Even though he knew they had switched letters and written new ones for their parents.

If Greg hadn't already.  Or Tony.


Xander walked into his house, handing his father the letter.  "I was good all summer.  Arts and crafts sucked so I didn't bring anything home.  I got to spend a lot of time swimming and playing in the woods.  My cabin was very good at repelling the stupid older kids too."

He snorted and threw that aside.  "Like I care.  You wouldn't have gone if that church hadn't sent you.  Go to your room, Xander."

"Sure."  He went to do that, locking himself inside.  He wrote Willow about camp, sneaking out to hand it to her, then back into his room in time for supper, if they remembered to feed him tonight.  If not, Tony and Danny had slipped him some of their snacks from camp that they hadn't eaten.  He hadn't known twinkies tasted so good until Tony had given him one.  He definitely liked snack cakes.  The sugary goodness, as Greg called them, made him feel happier and better about things.  He heard his parents arguing about him and sighed, getting up to put on the special lock, just in case.  They were drunk again and last time his father had tried to drop him off on the highway.  Though, he knew where Greg was....  He was only a few hours' drive away....  No, better not.  Greg's mother would mind.  His parents would get in trouble and he'd have to live with his Uncle Rory.  They'd tried that once but it hadn't worked out well for anyone.


Not So Far In The Past.


Willow Rosenburg looked at the letter to go to the national competition then her parents.  "What do you mean you can't go?  It says I have to be accompanied by an adult and if I don't go I can't go to a good college.  You know they start recruiting for Harvard there."

"You'll do fine, Willow, we trust you," her mother assured her.

She sighed and stomped off.   She found Xander waiting on her.  "I got in and now I can't go because they can't go with me."

"I can go with you."  She frowned.  "Some of my friends from that summer I went to camp are going, I can go catch up with them."

"That might be fun for you but I can't go if there's not an adult."

"Then ask Jesse's mom."

"Point."  They walked over to their friend's house, tapping politely before walking in.  "My parents are going to Milwaukee," she complained, handing over the letter.  "I need an adult so I can go and get into a good college.   Can you go with me?"

She smiled at her and nodded.  "I've already made plans for it, Willow.  We figured your parents would be too busy."

"Good."  She beamed.  "Can Xander go with us?  He never gets to leave town and some of his friends from that summer at camp are going to be there."

"As long as he's *good*.  I don't want any problems from you, Xander."

"I was going to find my friends and catch up," he defended.  "It's a weekend.  It's not like I can take over Omaha in a weekend."

"You'll promise me?"

"I promise," he sighed.  "You act like I kill people or something."

"Well, you are a bit wild, dear," she chastised.  "Plus you have bad grades."

"Gee, thanks," he said, walking off shaking his head.  "It's not my fault I don't understand half of what they're talking about."  He went to hang out where he usually did when he wasn't with Willow and Jesse, watching some of the workers down at the docks to make sure his father wasn't off drinking at home already.  He spotted him so it was fine.  He went to play in the playground.  He needed to swing and be around happy people for a bit.  It really wasn't his fault no one explained anything to him.  They knew he'd had problems in the past with some classes and hadn't explained anything then either.  His friends always explained things, especially Danny and Greg.


Xander got to the hotel with Willow and Jesse's mom, looking around.  "This is nice.  Kinda big but nice."  Jesse's mother looked at him.  "Just making a comment. They have nice colors on the walls.  It doesn't look like a hospital."  She shook her head and checked them in.  He looked at Willow, who shrugged.  He spotted a friend and nodded but she shook her head.  He hung back when the two women walked on, smiling at the reception girl.  "Can I leave a note for a few of the others?"  She nodded.  He wrote out the names and handed it back with the simple message to find Willow Rosenburg, he was chained to her side.  She took it and copied it where it needed to go and he caught up.  Jesse's mother gave him a harsh look.  "I left a note for my friends to find Willow so we could talk."

"Fine, Xander.  Stay with us please."

He sighed but nodded.  It wasn't his fault science like this bored him to naptime.  He made it through dinner, catching one's eye.  Greg gave him a smile and a wave when his mother wasn't looking.  He nodded at Willow and got a nod.  Then they all went back to their rooms to prepare for the science show the next morning.  He and Greg met in the halls, going to get Danny and Ryan up.  The only one not here was Tony.  He wasn't a science person either.  He was playing sports.  They sat down in the stairwell to talk and catch up.  Xander's father hadn't wanted to buy him stamps sometimes.  Danny's dad thought it was a sissy thing to have penpals so he had to sneak and write.  Greg's mother worried that they were going to be a bad influence so she read their letters.  She had stopped some of Xander's from getting through because he complained about his parents.  By the time they were yawning it was really late.  They snuck back to their rooms and into bed.  Xander found Jesse's mother up and waiting on him.  "We were talking in the stairwell.  Greg's mom won't let me write him because I told him about my father's drinking."  She nodded and pointed at his cot so he crawled in and went to sleep, hiding the card key he had taken off Willow earlier.  Some of them had to live off their wits instead of their brains.


The Present.


Xander smiled when he heard from Danny.  They had managed to keep together somehow.  The others had managed to keep in touch with Danny too.  Greg's mother still thought Xander was a bad influence.  Tony's parents forbid him from talking to anyone or telling them who he was.  Ryan's parents had basically abandoned him a few years back.  "Hey, Danny.  What's up?"  He beamed.  "Sure, I'd love to come for graduation.  Well, I'm kinda almost at an apocalypse," he admitted.  "Should be done by then."  He wrote down the date and place.  "I can be there if I can have your couch, man.  Sure.  Love and miss you too.  The others coming?   I miss sanity."  He looked around the house.  "Because I'm stuck in a house with eighteen girls and one bathroom."   He laughed at the smart remark.  "All off limits, yeah.  I'm a parental-type person.  Thanks, man.   I'll be there.  Any luck on getting Greg?  I know he's starting to work since he went super brain and got into college early so he could escape."  He snickered.  "Sure, if he can.  Thanks for the sanity call.  Tell the others I miss them."  He hung up and went to find himself something to eat, if possible.

When he finally found something in the cabinets he went to hide somewhere the girls couldn't find him for a bit and think while swinging and listening to kids play.  It had been ages since he'd seen any of them in person.  He'd seen Tony playing sports on tv.  He'd seen Danny on tv once.  Then he had gotten hurt.  Danny was the last of them that had went to college to graduate.  Tony and Ryan were cops now.  Which was kinda funny when you thought about them and uniforms.  Greg was working for a police lab.  Danny thought he wanted to do the same thing.  Ryan was thinking about going that way some day, but right now he was just thinking about it.  Xander, well, he was a construction worker.  He loved it.  He really did.  Even if he hated his town.  Even if he hated his life he liked his job.  He could do without the other problems associated with being him but that was life.  At least he wasn't an alcoholic dock worker like his father was.  He finally gave up and went home, finding out it was his night for patrol.  He sighed and went, willingly, so he wouldn't have to deal with eighteen teenage girls with PMS.  They were going to drive him nuts some day soon.


Danny looked at his watch then around, spotting dark hair coming his way.  "Xander?"  Xander nodded.  "Did you get an owwie?" he teased.

"You could say that."  He gave him a hug.  "Congrats, man.  You'll do great things."

Danny pushed him back to look at him.  "I saw the earthquake."  Xander's bitter snort told him all he needed to know.  "You wanna talk?"

"This is a weekend we should celebrate, Danny.  My eye's nothing."

"Is it going to be okay?"

Xander shrugged. "I guess."  Danny gave him one of those soul-searching stares.  "It's fine, Danny.  I accepted the risks of being Buffy's helper long ago," he said quietly.  He smiled.  "Now, let's go do this thing, man.  You need a cheering section."

"They couldn't get off," he said grimly.  "It's just us."

"Then we'd better party hard enough to make up for missing them, huh?" he teased, poking him on the side.  Danny smiled.  "C'mon.  I'll buy the first round after the ceremony."  Danny nodded, showing him where to go and giving him his ticket while he went to put on his cap and gown.  Xander went into the stands, going to find his seat.  He finally got into it right before the graduates walked in, having to stand and clap while they walked in.  Then he got to flop down and hold his head.  His head ached.  There were too many people and all he wanted to do was run and hide or tense up and search for the attacker, but Danny needed him here.  Not like his family was coming.  The others in their made family couldn't be here.  It was up to him.  He had managed to get to see Greg walk for his Masters and Tony graduate.  Ryan hadn't went to his, he had entered the academy that weekend.  They all sent him a care package of treats and things.  He'd probably need them as bribes.  He hooted and clapped when Danny's name was called, earning a smile in his direction.  He even took pictures - it was mandatory, right?  At the end of the ceremony Danny came out and he found him against his car.  "Home?"

"Home's good.  We'll drop our stuff and go party."  Xander grinned and got in.  "So, what's wrong with the eye?"

"Nothing anymore."  Danny pulled into a spot and parked, turning to look at him.  He even lifted the eyepatch.  "It's fine."  He pulled away.

"It's not fine.  You're missing an eye, Xander!"

"No shit?  Really?"  He gave him a look.  "I was kinda there and awake when the demon used his big, greasy fingernail to pop it, Danny."  Danny pulled him into a hug and he felt comforted.  "The girls visited once."

"Shh.  If you had told us, we'd have come," he reminded him.

"We went into hell the other day to fight, Danny.  I didn't want you guys in danger," he said quietly.  He pulled back, wiping his eye.  "It's all right.  I'm fine otherwise."

"You need ta talk?"

"No, we need to celebrate you finally graduating and moving on."


"I want to celebrate your happies, Danny, not my problems.  So let's go get happy."

"Sure, happy I can do," he agreed, giving him a sideways look.  "Why didn't you call?"

"I didn't want you guys anywhere near Sunnydale with what was going on."

"We'd have made you come to us."

"That would've left them without me."

"You fought like that?"

"Yup.  Few weeks after it happened," he sighed.  "They *needed* me.  Even if they don't admit it anymore."

Danny growled.  "We'll fix those bitches of yours."

"No you won't.  They're in Cleveland.  You've been accepted in the lab up here.  None of us are in Cleveland."

"Tony might be heading that way."

"Philly.  I called last night."

"Eh, closer."

"Danny, don't."

"I can tell him.  I should tell 'im since you haven't."

"We'll tell the others tomorrow.  Can we drop it for tonight?"

"Sure," he agreed, changing subjects.  "You staying in New York?"


"Let me rephrase that.  You are staying in New York, yes?" he said dryly.

"No, they need me in LA.  I might go to Cleveland later on but right now the LA crew needs me.  Don't you dare!" he warned when Danny started to look for a parking spot.  "Let's just go be happy that you graduated or else I'm flying out again tonight."

"Sure," he agreed.  "Ryan would like you to come down.  You got time for that?"

"I might.  I don't know yet," he said quietly.  "They need someone to hunt down the others to make sure they're protected and trained."

"At least stop in on each of the brothers' couches," he ordered, finding the bar he wanted and parking.  "C'mon.  You said you'd buy first round," he teased, walking him inside.  "Hey, Saul," he said, smiling at the bartender.  "This is Xander.  He's like a brother, like Ryan."

"Ryan was up?"

"Overnight.  All he could spare."  He grinned at Xander, waving a hand.  Xander went up to get them some beers, coming back with them.  "Thanks, man."

"Welcome.  Thank you for dropping it."

"Sure, for now."  He sipped and looked at him.  "We should get you laid."

"Anya died in the battle, Danny," he said grimly.  "I'm not ready to go there yet."

"Would she want you to mope?"

"Ahn?  For all eternity," he said dryly.  "She was like that."

"Uh-huh.  You definitely need ta go have fun then.  At least see Ry?"

"If I can."

"Good!"  He saluted him with his glass.  "I'm done.  Finally!"

"Finally," he agreed, grinning at him.  "The last of us to graduate."

"You can go."

"With my grades?" he snorted.

"Point.  We'll figure it out together, Xander."  He reached over to ruffle his hair.  "Go put money in the jukebox.  Pick something to cheer yourself up."

Xander gave him an odd look.  "You sure?  No one likes my tastes."

"Then we'll go pick together."  He walked him over there, picking something happier, then coming back to their first beer of the night.  The first of many as it turned out.


A few days later Danny called the others on conference call.  "It's me.  Xander got recalled to Cleveland to travel."

"He okay?  I saw the earthquake," Tony asked, sounding worried.

"Ah, no.  Got that full story outta him after grad."

"Sorry," Ryan moaned.

"Not your fault, Ry.  I told him to stop in on you.  He said he'd be down when he could.  Those bitches of his are sending him around the world to look for other slayers.  See, Miss Willow loosed every one of them to fight the hell beast they went into hell to fight."  Greg choked.  "You good?"

"I'll be fine, but damn it," he said quietly.  "Sorry, at work."

"Not an issue, so am I," Tony sighed.  "Since he made it to graduation I'm assuming he's alive?  I hope?"

"Yeah.  Alive, not too happy.  Anya died in the last battle.  He spent about a month living with about eighteen teenage girls and one bathroom.  He's down to one eye."

Mass choruses of 'Excuse me?' in various tones of outrage came through the line.  Along with one boss wondering what Greg was doing.

"He's okay though, right?" Ryan asked.

"Yeah, he's fine.  Apparently the girls at home are too shallow to go traveling to places they might get dirty," Danny sneered.  "So Xan's off doing that.  He said he wanted to travel.  Otherwise he'd have stayed in LA."

"You tell him I've got a spare room," Greg said firmly.  "The boy is like my brother.  He didn't call us!" he said angrily.

"He was only out a few days when the battle happened and he didn't want us near there," Danny told him.  "After all, going into hell ta fight, probably not that pretty and we're not trained like he is."

"Fuck," Tony complained.  "Okay, next time one of us hears from him, tell him he has to visit all of us.  We've all got couches or spare rooms.  I want Xander here in front of me within a few months if possible."

"Me too," Ryan agreed.  "If he still wants construction stuff, there's tons where I am."

"I'm thinking about coming down soon too," Tony admitted dryly.

"I thought you were heading to Philly," Danny said dryly.

"Oh, I am."  You could hear his grin.  "Mother showed up."

"Shit," Danny said in awe.  "You're still whole, right?"

"Yeah, still fine.  She wanted me to donate sperm.  Didn't work but she tried really hard."  They could hear his boss complaining in the background.  "Gotta go, guys.  Talk to you soon and tell Xander I wanna see him in front of me within the month."  He hung up.

"I should go too, Grissom's giving me that odd look again," Greg sighed.  "Tell Xander I said ditto and then handcuff him so he has to get on the plane, okay?  Miss you guys.  Call when we plan a vacation."  He hung up.

Danny listened to Ryan breathe.  "You good?"

"Bit upset.  He didn't tell me!  Damn it, he told me everything!"

"He didn't want us in danger, Ry.  He said that's why he didn't tell us.  Hell, the only reason I knew there was going to be one so we could watch was because I called him to come for graduation."  He rubbed his forehead.  "We do need a joint vacation soon."

"When you start getting time, tell us, man.  We're all getting hours."

"Sure.  Thanks."  He hung up and put his head down, thinking about how far they were drifting.  He hadn't seen Tony or Greg in person for nearly a year.  None of them had seen Xander in person since Greg's graduation two years earlier.  Right now, he wanted to beat himself up over that.  Xander clearly needed them.  A lot. Then again, he had left for Africa that morning.


The Future.


Xander answered his phone. "Giles, I'm tired.  I'm not moving my fat ass off the couch for a day at least," he said in greeting.  He listened.  "Tony?"  He sat up.  "Tony, man, talk to me."  He listened to him gasp.  "Where.  Just tell me where, the rest of us are coming."  He nodded.  "Be there by tonight."  He hung up and called his favorite travel company.  "I need one for me going to DC now.  I've got a friend in the ER, Hannah.  Also, get one from NYC to there and one from Miami, then one from Vegas.  Thanks." He hung up and conference called the others.  "Shut up," he said at the complaining Ryan was doing. "Tony's in the hospital.  He got exposed to the plague, guys.  He sounds horrible.  You've got plane tickets waiting.  Go for it.  I made them through Hannah so call her."  He hung up and grabbed some clothes, throwing them into a backpack and heading out.  Hannah had all their names.  She was his emergency contact and knew who he was talking about.

He barely got to the airport to get on the flight but that was fine.  It would be a short one from Cleveland.  He buckled up and thought hard.  They could not lose Tony.  Never.  He held the group together most of the time.  By the time he got off the plane he was furious at Tony's boss.  Who in the hell had sent him into a situation where that could happen!  He called Tony's phone.  "Where is he, Kate?  I'm like his fucking brother, where is Tony.  Yes, this is one of us.  The others are coming.  Lady, now."  He hung up and concentrated, pulling up the magic he had bee learning on the sly for years.  He got a cab.  "Bethesda.  Now."  The cabbie looked at him.  "I've got a friend in iso."

"It'll be expensive,"

"He caught the plague."  The cabbie nodded and drove off.  It was a long drive but oh well.  He could afford it, kinda.  He paid him and got out, stomping inside.  One of the guards patted him down.  "You can have the bag for right now.  All I need is the paperwork in the front.  My friend's in isolation."

"Sir, Agent Todd is fine."

He looked at him like he was stupid.  "Why would I care if the selfish bitch is alive or not?"  They looked stunned.  "Tony's like my brother.  Get out of my way or be moved."  They moved and he got onto the elevator, going upstairs.  He walked into the ward, waving the paperwork.  "Unless theirs was signed later than mine, I've got permission to treat Agent DiNozzo."  The nurse snatched it and nodded he was right.  "Now, where is Tony, where is his fucking boss so I can smack the shit out of him, and where is his doctor?"  He stared her down and she scurried off.  He followed to the isolation ward.  The doctor tried to stop him.  "I have permission to treat.  Over his boss's."

"Are you sure?"

"Yup.  The nurse has it."  He pointed.

"He does, sir."  She handed it back.

"This happened at the agency," Gibbs said.

Xander hauled off and hit him.  "Then next time get your shit together, Gibbs.  You kill my family over my fucking dead body."  He walked over him, taking the mask and gown so he could go in there.  "Tony, baby."  Tony coughed and flipped him off.  He grinned.  "Hi to you too."

"No parrot?" he taunted weakly.

"No, no parrot.  The others are coming."  He stroked over his hair.  "Get me a cool compress please?  At the very least it'll make him comfortable," he said when the nurse hesitated.  She got him one and he sponged off his face for him.  "They remove me with a crow bar," he said quietly, getting a nod.  Tony grabbed his hand.  "I'm here.  The others are coming, Tony.  You can't die.  You won't die.  You'll make Greg cry and he's too pretty to cry."  Tony swallowed and panted.  "Let's raise the head of your bed some.  It helped when I got dengue."  He did that and went back to sponging down his face.  Gibbs walked in and stood opposite him.  "The person who did this?"

"We're searching.  You are?"

Xander looked at him.  "You can't be searching if you're here, Gibbs."

"He's never mentioned you."

"He wouldn't to someone he doesn't know and trust like family."  Gibbs went a bit pale at that.  "So why are you standing around?"  He went back to taking care of him.  The doctor came in.  "There's others coming.  Greg Sanders.  Ryan Wolfe.  Danny Messer.  Let them in, tell them whatever they ask.  Greg's a chem genius.  Ryan and Danny are both CSI."  The doctor nodded, making a note of it.  "Tony, come on, can't sleep yet.  If you do the boogie man I couldn't kill will get you."  Tony blinked at him.  "Like we got them all?" he teased.

"True," he said, blinking hard.  "Can I rest?"

"As long as I can annoy you awake every half an hour," Xander told him.

He nodded and let himself drift until Xander squeezed his hand and he came back.  "I'm still here," he joked.  He looked at Gibbs, who was stomping back in.  "Hi, boss."

He got down next to his ear.  "Do you hear me, DiNozzo?"  He nodded.  "You cannot die.  I didn't give you permission."  Tony blinked at him so he tapped him on the head.  "I said you cannot die.  Am I clear?"

"Crystal, boss."  Gibbs nodded.

"Do you have her?" Xander asked.

"I came to check in.  McGee's getting the arrest warrant."  He looked at him.  "You're not in his records."

"We're the ones who kept him sane through everything," he said coolly.

Tony tugged on Xander's hand.  "No pissing.  They'll make you clean it up."

"True, they would.  You don't need exposed to anything I might've brought back either."  The doctor gave him a horrified look.  "I've been out of quarantine for six weeks, thank you."  That got a nod.  "And since then went to Japan.  Last year I caught Dengue Fever."


"I was in Africa working with someone special."  He went back to babying Tony.

"I want to know who you are," Gibbs ordered quietly.

Xander looked at him.  "Sit and spin, Gibbs."  He went back to taking care of him.  Gibbs pulled out cuffs and he broke his wrist for it before he could counter him.  "Don't do that.  I'm not the nice one of the family."  He pulled a stool over.  "Let me get some cooler water for your head, Tony."  He went to do that, coming back to find Greg had gotten there.  "Hey.  Cold compress?"  He let him have it and turned to the doctor.  "Well?"

"He's survived this long.  He'll do it if we can help."

"Good.  Anything we could be doing that we're not?"

"No, sir."

"Thank you."

"You do realize he'll have you arrested?"

"Yay.  If he was really Tony's friend, he wouldn't do more than call while finding who did this to him.  He'd be in the field finding the bastard instead of hovering."  He turned back, going to take over the free side and help him.  Ryan rushed in and he waved him inside once they had checked his ID.  Danny came in a few minutes later and took up a spot on the foot of the bed. "Greg, anything we can do?"

"Hope it's a suicide strain," he said, looking at him.  "I checked, they've got him on everything they can, Xander."

Xander nodded.  "Okay.  Then let's do things the Willow way."  They all gaped.  "Yay me.  Of course I learned!  Especially with her going bad."  He looked around.  "Doc, doing something wiccan."

"No candles."

"Won't need one.  Will need a knife."

"You can't have contact with his blood."

Xander looked at him.  "I'm immortal, doc.  I survived Sunnydale falling in."  He took the scalpel out of his jacket and cut his hand, then Ryan's, taking his to hold over Tony's chest.  "With the blood comes the energy," he chanted, imagining it flowing down with the blood they were dripping.  Ryan slumped and kept it up, feeling it siphoning out.  Tony's vitals steadied and went up a bit.  Greg took the knife and did it on himself, adding his to Xander's energy.  Danny took his last, adding what he could.  Tony started to go up, then suddenly went down so Xander smacked him on the face.  "Wake up."  Tony blinked at him.  "You can't die."  He put his bloody hand over his chest, chanting quietly, sending the rest of his energy at Tony, making him stronger.  Ryan caught him but that was fine.  He sat down and rested while they got the blood cleaned up and bandaged each others' hands.  His was done by the doctor.  "I'm fine."

"How did you do that?"

"I work with a few witches."  He took his hand back.  "None of us will get sick.  He'll get better now."

"Good.  Let me check him, boys?"  They nodded, getting out of his way.  "You took a big risk.  You could have been exposed."

"So?" Ryan asked.  "Tony's family.  We're not losing him."  He looked around.  "Where's his teammates?"

"I yelled at Gibbs for being here and not investigating," Xander admitted.

"Good!  I like that," Danny agreed.  Tony kicked at him so he grinned.  "My turn?"  Greg handed over the compress and bowl of water, letting him take the spot to comfort him while Ryan got his free side.   Gibbs walked in without protective gear.  "We good?"

"It's a suicide strain," he announced, handing the doctor the information.  He nodded, going to tweak an antibiotic a bit.  He looked at them.  "Who're you three?"

"His family," Ryan said.  He looked at him.  "Why?  Did you expect us to not come?"

"DiNozzo doesn't have relatives by his paperwork.  No siblings, both parents disowned him and wouldn't take the call."

"Sometimes family isn't about blood.  Sometimes it's thicker," Xander told him.  He stayed where he was.  "His fever starting to come down?  He's sweating again."  Ryan nodded, taking the cloth to take his turn.  "Good.  His apartment set up to baby him when he gets out?" he asked Gibbs.

Gibbs blinked.   "You're already in deep, whoever you are."

Xander shrugged.  "Tony's more important than some primadonna fit you could throw."  He took Greg's spot, letting Tony have some water to sip.  "I know coughing up blood tastes bad and hurts more," he soothed.  "Sip slowly."  Tony sipped then put his head back down.  "Good boy, Tony."  Tony patted him on the hand then pointed at Gibbs.  "What?"  Tony gave him a look. "Fine."  He let them fuss while he led Gibbs to the other side of the room.  "What part of other family didn't you get?"

"Tony is my agent."

"Tony's like my family.  Those four are the only family I have."  Gibbs stepped back at the ice in his voice.  "If you think I'm going to let you railroad me, you're wrong.  I'm more than stubborn, Gibbs.   I work with teenage girls all day to teach them defense."  He shuddered.  "Exactly.  Now, you can be here if you can be civil.  I don't care otherwise.  Tony is our family and we're going to take care of him because he is our family.  If you and the bitch don't like it, sit and spin."

"He likes Kate.  Kate risked her life to stay with him."

"Yay.  That almost makes up for her breaking him up with one girl that he might've stayed with."  Gibbs growled.  "Yeah, we heard.  Everything.  Including how he was thinking about her like a little sister. I know exactly how he thinks about you.  At that point in time, you were sitting on your ass and fussing when you should have been out there kicking ass.  Then you stupidly tried to take me on to get your spot back."

"Why weren't you here before, kid?"

"I'm not that young."

"I'm older than you think."

"You sure about that?" he quipped back, giving him a look.  "I have been here.  When I could.  For the past few years I've been going around the globe helping train certain young women in their jobs."  He nodded once.  "So bugger off.  If you want to be there, be there.  If you don't, say something nice and disappear.  When he's out, we're taking him home.  We're babying him.  Even if they have to leave sooner I don't."  He walked back there.

"I want your name."


"First or last?" Gibbs asked.

Xander looked at him.  "The only one you'll need."  He went back to babying Tony.  "Even if they have to leave early, I'll be here."  Tony smacked him on the head.  "I will be."

"Play nicely," Greg ordered.  He looked at Gibbs.  "Before you ask, I'm with the Las Vegas crime lab.  Danny's with the NYC lab, felony.  Ryan's with the Miami-Dade PD.  Xander's in training."  He went back to his portion of the fussing.  "Danny, let Ryan change your bandage?  You're leaking a bit."

"Sure.  Ry?"

"C'mon."  He walked him out to the nurse's station.  "Can I change his bandage?"

"I can."

"He can," Danny told her.  "I don't like docs."  She smiled and handed over the bandages.  "Thanks."  He held still while Ryan did his hand then they walked back in there.  Gibbs and Xander were being cold to each other but oh well.  Xander read people better than they did.  If he saw a reason to be cold to Gibbs, they could ignore him too.  They watched as Tony finally drifted off once his fever was down.  They let the nurse in to clean up the fussing mess and check him but then they gathered back around.  Xander went to get them food, coming back with a full tray.  They split what they wanted and sat there staring at him until he woke up and had some water.  Then he drifted off and they called their bosses to let them know what had happened and that Tony was fine.


Danny walked into work his first day back, holding up a hand.  "Mac, he'll be fine now.  Xander's stayin' ta fuss.  His fever finally broke late last night.  They said he'll have weaker lungs but he'll be fine."

"What happened to him?"

"The plague.  Someone sent it to his office and Tony opened the envelope."

Mac gaped.  "The plague?"

"Yeah, the plague.  Some mother sent it to him because they didn't solve her daughter's rape case.  He'll be fine now."

"Good.  Thank you for some warning."

"We didn't get any.  Tony managed to call Xander when he got sicker."


"A friend."  He walked off, going to clock in.

Mac watched him go, frowning at his back.  There was something going on with his CSI that he did not know about.  He didn't like that.  He went to ask more questions.  "Which friend is Tony?"

"He's NCIS, out of DC."

"So he's in the field," he said.

Danny nodded.  "Yeah, now.  He was a regular cop before then."  He got into his labcoat and got to work.  "Why?"

"I've never heard you talk about either of those names."

Danny scoffed and looked at him.  "Do we talk about personal stuff, Mac?  Last I knew we didn't."  Mac scowled.  "We don't.  We never have.  Why would you've heard of them?"

"Just wondering."

"Yeah, well, wonder less.  They're fine.  Xander's takin' care of Tony for the rest of us."

"Us?  Like a gang?" Stella asked.

Danny gave her a look.  "Did you see gang insignia the last time you caught me without my shirt on?"  She slowly shook her head.  "Then drop it.  They're like family."  He got back to work.

"I've been in your apartment.  There's no pictures of anyone," Stella said, looking confused.

"Not like I pull 'em out to show 'em off, Stella.  I don't blab about my life like Aiden does."

"Fine, we'll drop it," Mac said, backing away from the defensive man.  "At least your friend will be fine, Danny."  Danny nodded, getting into his first sample.  "Good.  Let me know if you have to head off to help him again, all right?"

"Yeah, I can do that.  Hopefully with more warning too."

"That would help," Mac agreed. He left, giving Stella a look.

"Before you *think* about interrogating me, I'm not tellin' ya. All you're gonna do is annoy the piss outta me," Danny warned.  "I don't need this."

"Sorry."  She backed off, knowing Danny's temper.


Greg walked back into his lab.  "Tony's fine," he told his boss.  "The fever's down.  He's getting better."

"Good.  What did he have?"


"The plague?"

"Y. pestis to be exact."  Grissom groaned.  "He got it sent to him at work and opened an envelope.  We got there in a few hours after he went critical and he's better.  Xander's babying him until he's ready to go back to work.  Or until those girls call him back."

"What girls?  Who's Xander?"

"Another friend.  Why?"  He walked past him, going to his locker.


"What?" he asked, turning around to look at him.  "They're might-as-well-be family, Griss.  I had to go to Tony.  Xander's got him.  The rest of us had to come back to work but Xan's got a flexible schedule."  He ducked under someone's arm and went back to his lab to get to work.

Grissom looked at Nick and Catherine, who were looking confused too.  "Have you heard of these people?"

"No," Nick said.  "I've never seen pictures of them either."

"They're at home," Greg called.

Grissom shook his head.  "I'll ask," Nick said, going in there to interrogate him. He came out an hour later looking confused.  "They're so close that they're the ones Greg would run away with.  Even though they haven't seen each other physically in about a year and Xander in a bit longer.  Apparently Xander's been out of the country compulsively recently training young women to do something.  He didn't say what."

"Is his friend Xander a terrorist?"

"No, he's a Watcher," Greg called.  Then he slammed the lab's door.

"Watcher?" Grissom asked.

Nick shrugged.  "Not a clue, man."  He walked off, he was not getting involved with this.  This was between Grissom and Greg.

Grissom went to the lab but Greg growled so he backed off and left him alone.


Xander walked back into the headquarters in Cleveland.  "What?" he demanded.  "My friend got the plague."

"People don't get the plague in this day and age," Giles said dryly.  Xander slapped down a piece of paper and walked on.  He looked at it then at the boy's back.  "Xander!  Get back here!  What is the meaning of this!"

"That's from his medical record.  Screw you, Giles," he called.   "If you're in my class, you had better be in the gym," he yelled as he walked.  Girls scurried toward the gym and he slammed the door behind him. "Start from the beginning.  First position!"  They glanced at each other but did it anyway.

Giles went to see Willow.  "Search this for me."

She took it then looked at him.  "It was in the paper and on the news."  She handed it back.  "He met him at summer camp."  She got back to work.  "Did you have to piss him off?  I've got to send Xander back to Saigon."

"Perhaps we should send someone else?"

"Giles, no one else ever manages to make it into another country, especially not back into the backwoods of some of them. Xander does.  Besides, we're all busy doing other things."  She got back to work.  "Customs likes Xander, it hates Buffy and me."

"You could go magically."

"I have to know exactly where I'm going.  I don't, especially back in the backwoods that not even National Geographic goes."  She glanced at him.  "You started it, I'd go apologize.  You've already pissed Xander off once today.  Doing it twice is going to mean he leaves us."  She got back to work, typing onto a website.

He stomped off, going to the gym.  "Xander."  The girls all growled at him after Xander did.  "Well!  That is not appropriate."

"You piss him off, he leaves or we get really nasty workouts," one girl said, shoving him out of the gym.  "Quit picking on Xander because he has friends and you hate that he can pay attention to them and not you."  She slammed the door in his face and got back into position.

"Well said, take a break," Xander said dryly.  "Give me five."  They nodded and went to get some water while he looked out at Giles.  "She's right. You've gotten back to the same attitude where I used to be worthless.  Are you happy and proud of yourself?"  He slammed the door, took his bottle of water, waving it at the group.  They got back into position and attacked each other for his critique.


A Little Bit Farther in the Future


Ryan woke up from his sedative, blinking his uncovered eye when the pounding sound continued.  "Neighbors," he moaned, pulling the pillow over his head.  He yelped and moved it, that's when he realized it was someone knocking impatiently.  He got up and trudged down there, finding Greg on his doorstep.  "Who called?" he asked quietly.  Greg hugged him, walking him back to the couch to sit with him.  "I'm okay."

"Bullshit."  He gave him a cuddle, letting him rest on his shoulder.  "Let it out, Ryan.  It'll be okay.  I'm here.  Tony's on his way down," he soothed.  "Danny will leave tonight after shift."  Ryan pulled back, shaking his head.  "Yes, you need us."

"It was only a little nail."

Greg snorted.  "Tough.  Suck it up."

"Xander?" he asked really quietly.

"No clue," Greg admitted.  "He's somewhere overseas again.  We think Asia."  He pulled something out of his pocket, laying it on a table.  "Light it on fire, he said he'd show up."

Ryan looked at it then shook his head.  "No.  I don't need him.  It's not that bad.  I'm not losing it.  I might get an infection but I'll be okay."

Greg made him look at him.  "Shut up."  Ryan smiled at that.  He light it on fire on the far end, counting to ten until his phone rang.  "Ryan got a nail to the eye."

"Tear duct," Ryan corrected, taking the phone.  "I'm fine, Xander.  It went into the tear duct.  I was stupid on my scene.  My gun wasn't out."  He listened to him.  "I'll be fine.  Where are you?  Oh, Willow upped the quality of your phone.  You're *where*?"  He looked at Greg.  "He's in Vegas."

"Why is he in Vegas?"  He took the phone back.  "Let me guess, it was my woven thingy so you went there?"  He grinned.  "Ryan.  Sure, we're here."  He hung up.  "This means he gets a shower for the first time this month."

"I'll make sure the towels are clean," he said, getting up.  Greg pulled him back down and went to do it himself.  Xander appeared, looking down at him, arms crossed over his chest.  "I'm fine," he said weakly.

Xander leaned down, looking at his good eye.  "You're starting to look like me."  Ryan grinned slightly.  "Shower?  Before I hug you and make you stink?"

"Follow Greg's whistling."

"Thanks, bro."  He went that way, stripping once he was in there.  "Check the pockets."

"Fat chance I'm touching that without a biohazard suit," Greg complained.  Xander sighed and did it on his own, then handed them over.   He walked them out, holding them at arm's length.  "Please tell me you've got a washer?"

"Nope.  Put them on the back step.  It'll rain tonight."  Greg opened the back door and threw them onto the stairs, then shut the door and found the air freshener.  "Thanks."

"Welcome.  He wasn't kidding.  He hasn't showered in a month."  He flopped back down next to him, giving him a cuddle. "Let it go, Ryan.  I know you're worried."  Someone knocked so he got up to answer the door.  "Who're you?" he asked.

"I could ask the same."

"I'm Greg, a friend of Ryan's."

"I'm Eric, I work with Ryan."

"Oh.  He's napping."  He shut the door in his face and went back to cuddling with him.

Ryan groaned and got up to answer the door.  "My friends are very protective of me," he explained.

"Hey, I would be too," he admitted, smiling a bit.  "Want dinner?"

"Sure.  Better now than before the walking stomachs get here."

"How many friends are over?"

"Xander just got back from overseas.  He's in the shower.  His clothes are out back.  You've met Greg.  He's from the Las Vegas lab.  Just started in the field recently."  He let him inside.  "Greg, this is Eric, he works with me."

"Hey.  I heard how you've worked with him," he said.  He waved.  "Xander's in the shower.  We're expecting Tony and Danny in a few hours."

"That's fine.  I was going to order dinner for Ryan and I.  I guess you guys can put in an order with us."

"Sure, I can do that."  He leaned back.  "Xander, food?"

"Anything but oriental," he called back.  He came out wearing a towel.  "Ry, can I borrow something?"

"Sure."  He walked into the bedroom, Xander following.  "What have you been doing?"

"Baby slayer," he sighed.  "Six years old.  The mother wants to send her to Cleveland.  I've been talking her out of it and making sure she'll make it to adulthood.  It isn't going to work and no one there is good to kids.   I'm going to end up raising a young daughter soon."  He took the bike shorts and t-shirt.  "Thanks, Ry."

"We'll cuddle later and talk," he soothed, stroking his back.  Xander looked at him.  "How is the rest of the world?"

"Dirty.  Very, very dirty."  Ryan smiled at that.  "Seriously.  She was amazed that people don't all live on dirt floors."  He walked out, finding Greg putting in the order for pizza. "I love you."  He gave him a hug.  "I haven't had pizza since Venice."  He sild down next to him, pulling Ryan down too.  "Tear duct?"

"Yeah, right into the tear duct."

Xander looked at him.  "Trade ya," he said blandly.

"Um, no thanks.  I can't do my work if I do that."

"Good point."  He nodded and rested his head on his shoulder.  "Greggy, want a six-year- old daughter from the boonies of Thailand?"

"No thanks.  Why would you?"

"She wants to send her to Cleveland and it's not like I trust *them* with kids."

"Point.  Well, if you adopt you'll definitely be one up on the rest of us."

"As opposed to one behind?" he asked dryly, giving his head a shove.  "Not my fault I'm not an education person."

"He's been to Africa and Asia, we haven't," Ryan reminded Greg.

"True, wanted to go.  What's Africa like?"

"Depends on where you go.  I was on the plains and it was spiritual and dirty.  I got to fight a lion.  Kinda necessary, he was trying to eat me and the one I was training.  I got to meet with a lot of shaman.  They all thought I was special, as opposed to Giles and Buffy.  Buffy told Customs 'yes' in response to the question why are you in England.  Giles had to get her back from Customs."

Ryan giggled.  "Doesn't really surprise me.  When are we going to Cleveland to stomp them?"

"Be my guest," Xander said grimly.  "I want to.  Not like I wanna go back."  He yawned. "Sai is coming in a week if I didn't convince her mother."  He got up and found his cellphone, bringing it back.  He sat down again, cuddling into Ryan's shoulder while he dialed.  "Giles, me.  Sai may be coming anyway.  I know that, Giles, but her village isn't safe and she's still a child.  A week if I didn't convince her mother.  Gee, Giles, I don't know...  Actually, Miami at the moment.  Because my friend nearly had to have his eye taken out and I have a unique experience with that," he said dryly.  Giles spluttered.  He hung up and called someone else.  "Bethany, my last assignment, they may be sending her anyway.  The village is in bad shape, there've been people attacking near and through it recently.  I tried for over a month, Beth.  Yeah, she's six.  Her name is Sai.  S A I.   Yeah, from Thailand.  She had a way to do it or so she said.  I don't know. We may want to keep an eye on LA Immigration Center for me.  Yeah, well, she's a mother, she wanted her daughter to live, Beth.  No, Giles is pissed that I'm with a friend who nearly had to have an eye removed.  Yeah, I'm here.  My cell's on and charged.  I'm in Miami.  Yeah, Giles spluttered.  I tried for a month.  Tell me when she gets here."  He hung up and closed his eyes.  "Can I just bomb them now?" he asked.

"Fire pretty," Greg agreed.

Xander looked at him.  "Don't give me ideas."  Greg grinned.  "Please.  Because I will use them this time."  He looked in his phone, getting another number and calling it.  "Hey, it's Xander Harris, is he in?"  He grinned.  "Thanks."  He was on hold for a moment.  "Hey, it's Xander.  Need a small favor.  I know you know why I was in Thailand.  There's a young one.  Six.  Her village has been having raiders who snatch people.  Her mom wants to send her even though I helped eliminate the threat.  Yup.  Her name is Sai.  I have no idea how she's coming.  Her mother was insistent."  He nodded.  "Exactly.  Giles isn't thrilled.  I'm not thrilled.  Because they're rabid bitches," he said dryly.  "I wouldn't trust them with a cat.  Much less a child."  He smiled.  "If she does.  Probably in about a week.  Her mother said if it didn't get better she'd be sending her in a week.  I'm in Miami at the moment.  Call me, please.  I will.  Thank you for watching that for me."  He hung up and went back to his cuddling.  "So, infection?  I didn't get to have one of those."

"The nail might've left some debris," Ryan admitted, tipping Xander's face back.  "Full glass or just a glass shield?"

"Full glass.  Which is really hard to take out to clean.  It's good though because I've had nightmares about being that old guy who takes his glass eye out for shits and giggles in the bar so someone buys him drinks."

"That's a thought that'll ruin dinner," Greg said grimly.  "So, what's the new daughter like?"

"Sweet.  Very sweet.  Very gentle.  Very Victorian in her viewpoint but that's a cultural thing.  She giggled when her parents kissed and told them it was naughty to do more than that.  We'll introduce you if she does come over.  Are you sure I can't burn them?" he asked Greg.

"If it were up to me, give them a ten minute warning to magic all the books away then light it up," Greg offered.

"Um, guys, I'm a CSI, Ryan's a CSI.  If we hear about these things we have to report them."

Xander looked at him.  "You'd want to burn them too," he said dryly.  Someone knocked and Greg went to get it.  "Tell me that's the pizza guy?" he begged.

"No it's Tony and Danny," Greg called, giving them a hug and letting them go.

"Cute clothes," Tony joked, giving Xander a hug.  "How are you?"

"He might have a daughter out of Thailand," Ryan said happily.

"Wow.  Why?" Danny asked.  He looked at the shorts then at Ryan.  "Yours I hope?  They're a bit show and tell on him."

"Mine," Ryan agreed, holding up his arms.  He got a hug from both of them. "Feed him please.  He's been in Thailand without a shower for the last month."

"I took one just now," Xander said with a happy grin.

"Good, 'cause you probably stunk," Danny agreed.

"You have no idea," Greg assured them, wiggling his way back down to Xander's free side.  "His clothes are out back."

Tony looked at the cuddled trio.  "Where's mine?  I haven't had a good cuddle since I got the plague."  Ryan patted the free spot on his other side so he sat there, letting Danny have his other side.  He noticed the stranger.  "Hi, you are?"

"Eric, I work with him."

"Yeah, we've heard," Danny assured him.  He looked over at Ryan.  "Is it still in there?"

"Tear duct," he assured them.  "I'm fine, really."

Tony snorted.  "Shut up, Ryan."  Someone else knocked.  "More friends?"

"I'm hoping it's food," Xander said, grabbing his wallet and heading for the door.  There was a small blonde woman.  "You don't have the pizza, right?"

"No, I don't," she said.  "Is Ryan here?  I thought this was his place."

"It is, we're huddling around him."  He saw the pizza guy pull in and grinned.  "Food!  I love you, man."  He gave him a hug and a fifty, taking the three pizzas."

"Um, dude, it was only twenty, it's a special," he called after him.

"I haven't had pizza in over a year," he called back.

"Hey, I won't complain then," he decided, going to his next delivery.

Xander wiggled back into his spot, putting the pizzas down on the wooden tray someone had put on the table, glancing at Ryan, who nodded.  "Someone get plates?  I'm getting comfy."  He snuggled back into the comforting shoulder, looking at the new person.  "So you're who?"

"Calleigh, I work with Ryan like Eric does."

"Not from what we heard.  We heard you treat him very nicely," Greg told her.

"That's so nice," she said, smiling at them.  "You guys look so cute.  Ryan, how are you feeling?"

"I'm good.  Eric, what did you order?"

"Pepperoni, cheese, and supreme.  Ordered from the place Ryan usually goes," Eric promised.

"Give me a slice of pepperoni," Ryan ordered.  One was handed over by Tony and then the others got theirs.  Xander inhaled his first one and stole a piece of Ryan's meat.  "Eat, Xander."

"Bless you."  He got another piece.  "The village was poor.  I didn't want to rob them."  He inhaled the second and started on the third when someone else knocked.  "It's someone else's turn."

Calleigh went to let them in.  "Hi, Alexx, Horatio.  Ryan's old friends are down to baby him."

"That is always helpful," Horatio said, coming in and taking off his sunglasses.  "CSI Messer.  Agent DiNozzo."  He glared.  "Mr. Harris."  Xander flipped him off.  "Why are you here?"

"I'm a friend of Ryan's, I'm missing an eye, and I'm babying him because I've been there.  Why?"

"Where is the young lady you were with last time I saw you?"

"Cleveland."  He ate another bite.  "With the selfish bitches."

Horatio hummed and stared at him.  "Her mother has...."

"No custody.  The state signed her over to Buffy.  Call her ass, Lieutenant.  All I am is recruitment and training.  Besides, I've been in Europe and then Asia since then.  I tried to talk her into staying in town.  If you guys had arrested her bitch of a mother she wouldn't be in Cleveland.  Or possibly Shanghai.  There's a few who went on a trip."  He tossed his phone at him.  "Call them.  They're number three on the speed dial."

"I'll look into that later.  Are you staying for a while?"

"Only if Ryan feeds me."

"We can do that," Horatio promised, giving him a look.  Xander sighed and got up, dragging him into the bedroom and shutting the door.  "I know what you do."

"I go find slayers for the Watcher's Council," he said quietly.  "They're all girls who have some sort of genetic advantage.  Willow ended up activating them all to save the world and gee, some of them have problems adjusting to being super strong and violent."  Horatio nodded.  "I thought she was normal enough to stay.  I also knew that she wouldn't while her mother was allowed to keep going.  You wouldn't arrest her, so yeah, her being there is your fault.  By the way, she's still not happy.   Now, anything else?  Ryan is one of my very few friends and he needs me because I've been where he is now."

"I do have some questions.  Which state?"

"Ohio.  She ran away and I made her go to them and tell them what happened.  They agreed that custody could rest with Buffy and told Florida."

"Fine.  This new one?"

"Which new one?  I'm only down here because of Ryan."

"You said you've been overseas."

"Trying to convince a mother that she can protect her six-year-old daughter from the raiders trying to kidnap everyone in the village.  I'm pretty sure it won't work.  Even though I took out most of the raiding party."  Horatio nodded once at that.  "Did you find another one?"

"Two.  I've called up there."


"They're fine.  Buffy came down to talk to them."

"Oh, God, I'm sorry you had to deal with her."  He hung his head then looked at him again.  "I do what I can.  It doesn't mean I like them.  My family is in the other room and they're my only friends.  Now, do you have more of a beef with me?"

"No.  Though I would like you to evaluate someone else for me," he said quietly.

"I can stay for a bit.  Giles will bitch but oh well."

"Thank you."  He handed back the phone.  "Is she happy?"

"Not really.  I *make* them go to school when I'm there.  Buffy's a bit lax."

"Ah.  That'll happen sometimes.  Thank you, Xander.  Ryan's clothes?"

"Mine are out back.  I hadn't showered in a month."

"I understand."  He let them back out.  "He assured me the young lady was fine."

"Good," Calleigh agreed.  She looked at Xander.  "Maybe you should call them again?"

Xander dialed up there.  "Buffy, me.  I've been asked to look around Miami for another one Ryan's boss thinks he found.  Yeah, him."  He sighed. "Put him on."  He held his head.  "Giles.  I'll be in Miami evaluating another one.  Sure, Giles, and I'll go destroy the rest of the raiders in Thailand since they're trying to kidnap the whole village for cheap labor and other stuff."  He chuckled. "Giles, you do that and I'm so going to retaliate.  I've had enough of this.  Really?  Good, then *you* go to Singapore this weekend.  Have fun with Wilamette.  By the way, since I'm on official business I will ruin the council.  Am I clear?" he asked with deadly certainty.  "Yeah and you're about to piss me the fuck off, Giles.  Your choice."  He smiled.  "Anything else?" he asked sweetly.

"Good!  Then I'm going to be in Miami for the rest of this week.  I've got someone watching LA for her to come in.  I know how old she is.  Hey, I tell all of them to stay home, Giles.  You don't like my methods, go hunting them.  Like I said, Wilamette needs a check-in.  Then there's Manet.  Then there's Sarah down in South Africa who needs one," he said, checking out his nails.  "And then I get a whole week at home to find out who else Willow spotted, which is probably that one in Russia who keeps moving.  Anything else you want to take off my shoulders?  Not like I mind."  He smirked evilly.  "Sure, and I won't come run the weapons lectures either, or the defense classes.  Or make the brats go to school.  Or keep them from going shopping repeatedly on Council money.  Or even keeping them from going out to whore around for more spending money.  You can do all that if you want, Giles."  He snorted.  "I'm sure."

Greg took the phone. "Giles, this is Gregory, Xander's best friend.  We'd like him to be in the same country as us for at least a week this time.  Do you mind terribly not working him until he dies this month?  Because, I'm sure you do *so* much up there with the girls.  Really?  You do?  What?"  He spluttered but said something.  "Really?  And yet, Xander runs classes.  Xander does daddy duty, which should definitely be your job.  Xander does Buffy's job, your job, and sometimes Willow's job without the computer duties.  Actually, yes I do know what you do, Giles.  Yes, that's me.  So yes, I do know.  Anything else you want to dump on Xander without paying him for it?  Because I have power of attorney over his accounts and you haven't paid him in over a year, Giles.  I don't care if he is living on the company card, it's not like it's a salary.  That's work expenses."

"I can do without the salary Willow and Buffy get even though I'm not supposed to," Xander said, taking the rest of Greg's pizza.

"Hey!"  He stole it back.  "Get another piece, Xander, or steal from Tony."

Xander gave Tony the puppy eyed look and got a sigh but the rest of his pizza.  "Thank you, Tony."  He blew a kiss.  "By the way, your grandfather hates your parents.  I popped in to say hi.  They like you being a cop."  He ate a bite of dinner at the stunned look.  "Not like I like your parents any more than I like Giles."

Greg looked at him.  "He said you could find another job."

"And I can sue for back wages too," Xander reminded him.  "Since my salary was supposed to be equal to Buffy and Willow's, plus his own, that'll be closer to a few mil by now."

Greg smiled and nodded.  "He's spluttering.  Bye, Giles.  By the way, one of us is a Fed.  He'll be home in a week."  He hung up.  "Give him a day to think, Xander."

"You can have the couch so you can keep showering," Ryan offered.  Xander kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks.  I needed the boy kiss."  Xander grinned and Tony gave him another one.  "And a nice one from you too," he joked.

"Welcome.  You gave me good cuddles when I got the plague."

"I did," Ryan agreed happily.  "Nearly as good as Xander's?"

"I had to go back to work to get away from the Xander octopus," he joked.

"And nearly got blown up that morning," Xander reminded him dryly.

"I remember.  Please don't remind me."

Greg leaned over.  "If I get into situations like that I might go back to the lab."

"Are you in the field?" Calleigh asked.

"Just recently into my training," he agreed happily.  "I'm on Grissom's shift."

"We worked with them in the past," Horatio agreed, smiling at them.  "Are you going to be all right tonight, Ryan?"

"I'll be fine. They'll cheer me up and pick on me all night."

"That's fine, I'll leave you boys alone then.  Have Xander call me tomorrow."  Xander nodded.  "Thank you."  He smiled at Alexx.  "Want a ride home?"

"Please.  Are you sure, sugar?"  Xander popped out his eye and she grimaced. "Well, you'd definitely know.  Injury?"

"Nasty fingernail."  He put it back in.  "I'll make sure he takes good care of it, ma'am."

"Good."  She left, taking Horatio's arm on the way out.

"I'll let you guys be cute and cuddly too," Calleigh said, running after them.

"She's having gayboy fantasies now," Eric joked.

"That'd be more sex than I had since Anya died."  Eric gaped.  "Really."

"It's been four years," Danny pointed out.  "You haven't had any since then?"

"Two pros in Asia.  A ritual thing in Africa."  He shrugged and stole a piece of Danny's onion to nibble on.  "It's been four years?"

"Yeah," Tony agreed, taking some of Danny's sausage to nibble.

"Get another piece, guys, before you drop stuff," Ryan complained.  They both got some. "Thank you for buying dinner, Xander."

"Not an issue."  He grinned at Eric.  "So, how are you liking working with Ryan?"

"It's good most of the time.  Now and then he still manages to goof up."

"None of us are perfect," Greg said patiently.

"Speak for yourself," Tony said.

Ryan looked at him.  "Plague."

"Never mind."

"We're working it out, guys.  You don't have to threaten me or kill me."

"Good, we'd hate to cover it up," Greg assured him.  "But we could."

"Definitely.  I'll have him eaten.  No body to find," Xander agreed.  "Easy clean up."  He ate another bite.

"I'm sure it will be," Eric agreed. "We're working it out, guys."

Xander looked at him.  "Yes, you will."  Eric nodded at that.  "Good."  He smiled.  "Then I won't have to kick your ass to make Ryan giggle."

Ryan patted Xander on the head.  "Calm down."

"No, it's like this," Tony said, popping Xander on the head.  "See?  I did learn something from Gibbs."  Xander looked at him.  "It's fine."  One dark eyebrow went up and Greg looked over too.  "Really.  It's fine."

"Good," Xander agreed, smiling at him.  They all grinned at Eric again.

"I'll let you guys catch up for a while.  I'll check on you tomorrow, Ryan?"

"Sure.  I can go back to work the next day."

"Not if Alexx said no.  She will send you home.  Nice meeting you guys."  He disappeared out the door, heading to somewhere safer.

Ryan sighed.  "Guys!"

"He'll treat you better," Greg said.

Xander looked at him.  "Need some of that help?"

"Nope.  I'm good at the moment."

"Good," Danny told him.  "Can someone come threaten my boss?"  They all nodded.  "Thanks, guys.  He asked me a question, I answered, and he got mad that I knew and didn't tell him before that my brother was in a gang."

"Can I smack him?" Tony asked.

"Sure, he's a former Marine.  Go for it."

"Okay."  Tony got another piece of pizza, watching Ryan yawn.  "Xander, take Ryan in so he can nap."  Xander stood up and hauled Ryan up, carrying him into the bedroom.  The other three moved closer to cuddle together.  Danny looked back there, Xander was indeed using Ryan as a pillow.  Ryan was giving him tolerant looks but petting his hair.  They looked at each other.

"Think they could hook up?" Danny asked quietly.

"Xander might kill him in bed with how long it's been," Tony warned.

"I'm not like that," Ryan called.

"Uh-huh," Greg said with a grin.  "It'll be fine. We'll all settle down eventually."  They looked at each other and smiled.  "So, anything good that's new?"

"Not really," Danny said.  "My life's pretty well in the shitter.  Think Horatio needs help?"

"I don't know," Greg said.  "Ask him."  He shrugged.  "It's not your fault Mac's blaming you for not volunteering information he didn't want to hear anyway."

"Yeah, well, he's a stubborn bastard."  He pulled out his phone and called.  "Stella, it's me.  Ryan's fine.  It went into his tear duct.  I planned to come back day after tomorrow, that way we could help him before he went back to work.  Yeah, nail into his tear duct from a suspect hiding in a closet.  Exactly.  They're saying they can save the eye but there might be debris so he's on infection watch.  Well, our friend Xander lost his right before I graduated.  He's presently using Ry as a pillow.  Yeah, we're all here.  Because they needed me.  Sure, you tell Mac since he don't wanna hear from me right now.  Thanks, Stella."  He hung up.  "She'll tell 'im."

Tony kissed him on the cheek.  "It'll be okay.  Try to go Fed."

"Eww, suits."

Tony grinned.  "Not always."

"Yeah, right, and how do I get on your team?"

"Off Ziva," he said dryly.  "Just cover it up really well, okay?"

"Maybe we can get Xander to find somethin' ta eat her?" Danny suggested, yawning a bit. Greg nuzzled his arm.  He looked at him.  "Sure, you rest.  Don't you work nights?"

"Bite your tongue.  We get called out during the day too if they're short.  Same as you do. I had a triple today, a double the day before, and about ten hours between."  He yawned again.  "I needed the break."

Danny patted him down until he found his cellphone, calling his boss for him.  "Hey, is this Grissom?  No, I'm Danny, I'm callin' for Greg.  He's napping at the moment.  No, our friend'll be okay.  Hiding suspect put a nail through his tear duct.  As in nail gun, Grissom.  Actually, I am, I'm outta New York's labs.  Danny.  Nah, he's napping on my arm.  Ryan's in the bedroom.  He should be fine.  We're watching for infection.  Most likely it'll be the day after tomorrow, same as me.  Ryan's going back to work that day so we both planned on flying out after we drop him off.  Sure.  I'll let him know you want him to work like a water buffalo some more."  Greg held up a hand so he swatted it.  "I am a CSI, Grissom.  I work with Taylor.  Really?  Did you pull a double, get ten hours, and then a triple?" he asked dryly.  "Then why did Greg?"  He hung up and handed the phone back.  "Do I need ta call Gibbs too?"

"I'm on injury leave," Tony admitted.  Both of them looked at him.  "Oh, it's one of those stories.  Which is why I wouldn't mind Ziva David being eaten."

"She did what?" Ryan called.

"She not only invited the whole team *but* me to dinner, then acted smug about it.  But then I get shot on a scene and she says I'm play acting and it's only a scratch.  Flesh wound but not quite a scratch.  She's done this a few times in the past."

"She's toast," Ryan promised.

"You can't.  She and Gibbs are tight."

"I can fix that," Xander said in a sing-song voice.  His phone went off and he groaned but answered it.  "Harris."  He listened then grunted.  "Give me five to steal clothes and I'll be there as soon as I can, Lani."  He hung up and looked at Ryan, who waved a hand.  He grinned and grabbed some jeans and an overshirt to go over the t-shirt and bike shorts, disappearing once he had on his shoes.

Ryan padded out and cuddled in next to Greg, getting cuddled.  "I'm thinking about a talk with Gibbs.  You mind?"

"Yup.  It won't make me look any better if you do."

"If he gave a damn he would've checked," Greg said quietly.

"Mac does ta me, even though he can't stand me," Danny agreed.

"Yeah, well, this is Gibbs here," Tony said dryly.

"Not good enough," Greg said, smiling at him.  "Too bad we can't teleport like Xander."

"I've got time," Danny offered.

"No, Danny."

"Fine, Tony.  I won't show up ta beat his ass."

"Thank you.  I'm working on it."

"Good.  Of course, Mac would like you more'n me."

Tony gave his head a nudge.  "Let's let the supervisors lead their own meeting, huh?"

"Sure," Greg agreed.  "I'm sure Grissom called Mac to see who Danny was."  Danny moaned.  "Horatio too probably."

"They probably know each other anyway," Tony agreed.

"We worked with a Warrick and a Catherine on one case," Ryan offered.  "It was right after I joined the lab's precinct."

"Yeah, they know each other," Greg agreed.  They all sighed.  Their supervisors all needed to be eaten.  The real problem would keeping Xander from doing it for them.


Xander sighed and landed again, letting the little girl in his arms stand on her own for a minute.  He said something in Thai, getting a nod and she went to look out the windows.  He walked over to where Gibbs was working, pausing in front of his desk before he hauled off and hit him.  "Next time you don't check your agents yourself for injuries because your other agents are stupid bitches I'm taking Tony with me and you'll never see him again, plus your life will be *very* short and very painful.  Am I clear?"  Gibbs gaped at him.  "Am I?"

"She said he was fine."

"How would she know?  Besides the fact that you hurt him greatly and she did it on purpose?"  Gibbs swallowed.  "I didn't kill your stupid ass when he got the plague.  The only thing keeping me from doing it now is a promise I made to Tony.  Am I clear?" he finished in a hiss.  Gibbs nodded.  "Good.  Then decide if you want to be a *good* supervisor or not, Gibbs.  I'm a better one and I lead a guerilla war."  He turned and clapped his hands.  Sai smiled and ran over, leaping up to be caught.  "Good girl, Sai.  Let's go to Miami to check on Ryan.  Ryan needs cuddles for his eye.  Tony needs cuddles too because he got shot.  Come on."

"Is that your daughter?" McGee asked.

"Now."  He looked at him.  "Her whole village was decimated by raiders.  The group I work with has interest in her.  They're stupid bitches too, McGee.  Therefore, I have a daughter.  Her name is Sai.  Tony will be back in a few days.  One of our brothers had a nail go through his tear duct thanks to a hiding suspect."  He winced and shuddered.  "Exactly."  Sai patted his glass eye.  "That's right, we're hoping he doesn't have one of those."

"Who are you?" a female voice asked.

Xander turned to look at her.  "Not yours."  He looked at Gibbs.  "Are you trying to get rid of him?  Because we could definitely use him and pay him better, plus let him be happy again."  He walked off, going into the elevator and disappearing from there.  Sai giggled when they appeared and he set her down.  "There, go hug Ryan.  He's the one with the ouchie."  She ran over and crawled into the first available lap, smiling at them and hugging them all.

"Thank you, Sai. You're a very pretty girl," Ryan praised.  "Very smart."  She patted his eye.  "Yeah, that's an ouchie."  She hugged him around the throat again.  "Good girl."  He turned her around and pointed at the tv.  "Watch that."  She tipped her head, staring at it in confusion.  Tony changed to the gardening channel.  She clapped and got down to move closer. "Good."  Ryan looked at him. "You need another shower.  Is that blood?"

"Yeah.  The village was raided and taken en masse.  You mind, Ryan?  Then Sai and I can go to the laundromat."

"Go ahead, Xander.  Please, shower off the raider's blood."

"Oh, that too," he sighed, heading that way.

Tony's phone rang.  "DiNozzo," he said, listening to the complaining voice.  "XANDER!"

"I didn't hurt him.  Just pointed out some facts," he called back.

"You threatened my boss!"

"You're surrounded by petty bitches, the same as I am.  Wanna come work for me?  It's slightly better and no dress code."

"We'll see."  He listened to the phone.  "Yes, boss, I was shot," he sighed.  "Well, you didn't ask.  You listened to Ziva's polite little story.  Like you did when that one guy beat the shit outta me and she didn't say that either.  Why should I?"  He listened.  "Hmm.  Well, you've pretty well proven you don't appreciate me, boss.  No, we'll have this talk in person.  I'll be back in two days.  We can fight then.  Oh, yes, we will be."  He hung up, glaring at the bathroom.  He got up and went in there.  "You could've gotten me fired."

"No I didn't.  Even Marines need a swift kick now and then, Tony.  He hasn't had one since you got sick.  Now he's seeing *you* and not the pretty lies."  He leaned out of the shower.  "Besides, *any* good commander would've talked to his own agent, checked him over, and made sure of his injuries.  Not relied on the word of another agent.  You would have.  I would have.  They would have.  He should have.  I pointed that out."

"You threatened my boss in front of the director and McGee."

"Last time I broke his wrist in front of the others."  He pulled back in and went back to his shower. "I'll quit threatening your boss."

"Thank you.  Let me handle it."

"I will from now on unless he gets you seriously hurt."

"Thank you."  He went back to the living room, finding Sai helping Greg in the kitchen.   "She's very good at that."

"She is.  It's probably how her mother was training her," Ryan agreed.  Sai brought him a plate with a smile. "Thank you, Sai.  Good girl."  He kissed her on the temple and she giggled, running back into the kitchen to help some more.  "She's adorable."

"She is," Greg agreed.

Tony nodded, sitting down and picking her up to eat with her.  "Eat with me, Sai."  She looked at him so he tore the sandwich and handed her part.  She beamed and dug in, eating heartily.  "Where's Danny?"

"Out back taking a call from Mac," Greg said grimly.  "I'm eavesdropping shamelessly.  Can we send Xander up there?"

"No," Danny called into the house.  "Don't you dare, Greg."  He closed the door again.  He went back to defending himself until Xander came out to gather up his other clothes and his phone.  "Hey!"

"Mac Taylor, do you need a swift kick?" Xander asked.  "Yeah, well, you asked and then didn't like the answer, Mac.  What did you expect to hear?"  He listened to him.  "Obviously.  Hey, I know a place he can work all the CSI stuff he wants, he can teach it, and he'll get paid better, all without a dress code.  Now, you asked him about that gang so you knew he was from around there.  You knew his father's rep, and then you got mad because his brother was part of them.  Does that make sense to you?"  He nodded.  "Exactly.  You're making PMS sense, Mac.  So grow up."  He hung up and handed it back.  "I'm going to the laundromat.  Wanna come with me?"

"No, I think I'm going to be begging for a job."

"No, you won't.  He'll see sense.  I know all and see all.  That's why I lost my eye."  He walked back inside with the smelly clothes.  "Trash bag?"  Greg handed one over.  "Thank you.  Sai, wanna go do laundry with me?"  She brought her sandwich over with Tony's wallet.  "That's not mine, dear."

"Take mine.  Your clothes stink," he called.

"Okay."  He shrugged and took Sai with him, taking her out to catch a cab and go do laundry while they complained about his blunt style.  Then again, he had called Buffy and Willow and had them go talk to their bosses for him.


Tony hung up and looked at the others.  "He sent Buffy to Gibbs."

Danny moaned.  "Mac called earlier and asked me to bring Xander with me.  That whoever she was had been mean."

"Xander!" they all called in unison.  He came in out of the back yard.

"Who did you send to Mac?"

He grinned.  "Willow.  He wanted logic."  He beamed.  "Sai and I are going to a hotel tonight."

"Fat chance," Ryan ordered.  "You'll feed her ho-hos."

"We've got to arrange things for Cleveland."

"Are you staying with them?" Tony asked.

"I don't know yet.  I'm sick and tired of them thinking that I'm worthless and useless.  So I'm taking a long vacation."  He grinned. "Let them have my schedule and I'll get her set up to live here for good."  He beamed at Sai.  "Wanna go to bed?"  He repeated that in Thai and she nodded.  "Okay.  Guys, we really should hit a motel."

"If you do, we're all following," Greg assured him.

"Most of you guys are going home tomorrow."

"Yeah, and?" Tony snorted.  "Come visit us for your vacation."  He shrugged.  "After you check whoever for Horatio."

"Point."  He nodded.  "We still need to hit a motel.  She and I can't share the couch," he said at Ryan's head shake.

"Point," Ryan sighed.  "Fine.  Abandon me."

"You can come with us," he teased.

"That would get rumors started, Xander."  He winked at him.  "Behave, come back for breakfast?"

"Of course."  Xander picked up his wallet, keys, and phone, heading out with her to get a cab to a nearby motel.  There was one just up the street.  He'd call Horatio in the morning.  The others piled up around Ryan again and went to sleep.  Some of them had to work once they got home.


Xander smiled at the ambassador he met, shaking his hand.  "Thank you for helping us with this matter."

"It is not a problem."  He let them into his office.  "Now, what is going on exactly?"  Xander said something quietly to Sai, who bent a bar he had laying out on a table.  The ambassador gaped then looked at him.  He said something to Xander, who nodded.  "They're British."

"They're in Cleveland.  The British group got blown up a few years back and reformed in Cleveland.  Her village was raided.  Put it back, Sai."  She bent it back and came over to climb into his lap, earning a smile.  "Her mother decided it wasn't safe and asked that we take her.  I'd like to formally adopt her so she doesn't have any problems with the various governmental agencies."

He considered it then nodded.  "You clearly know."  Xander pulled out his original ID, handing it over.  He nodded.  "Then you definitely know."  He handed it back.  "I can expedite it.  Are you staying in town?"

"I'm on vacation.  They decided to treat me like crap in the group," he said with a small grin.  "Since I've hit six of the seven continents in the last ten months alone...."  That got a small laugh and he hugged Sai, saying something in her ear.  She giggled and waved at him.  "I can stay for a few more days and leave you where I'm going after that."

"That would be most reasonable, Mr. Harris."  He pulled out some paperwork and got to work on them.  "Are her parents living?"  He nodded and slid over the file he had on them.  "That will help, thank you."

Xander smiled and signed where needed, then handed the paper and pen back.  "Thank you for your help."

"It is best to get girls like her trained and settled somewhere they can be understood and not used for their gifts."

"Very true and she's to know nothing other than she's a normal girl," Xander said quietly.

"That is refreshing from the old group.  I thank you for helping her village.  I have heard rumors that there was a problem up that way."  Xander nodded and stood up, taking Sai with him.  He finished the paperwork and sent them back with the notes they'd need back in Bangkok to process this quickly.


Xander looked up from his lunch when Gibbs sat across from him.  "Hi.  Want a fry?"  He held out the box.

"Thanks, kid."  He smiled at Sai.  "You're adorable."  She beamed at him.  "She's how old?"


"That's a good age to move," he agreed, looking at him.  "You were right."

"I know I was."

"You've commanded battles."

"In Sunnydale.  Small group combat."

"I looked you up."

"I'm sorry.  Did you puke or have nightmares?" he asked before taking a sip of his milkshake.   "Eat, Sai."  She pointed and he looked then he looked at her.  "Clown."  He repeated it in Thai, earning a nod.  He said something else and she smiled and nodded before eating a bite of her dinner.  He looked at Gibbs again.  "Did Buffy get through to you?"

"She annoyed me more than anything."   He handed Sai one of the fries, getting a giggle.  "I know all about you, Mr. Harris."

"I'm not my father, thank you."

"I know that.  I also know that you've served this country honorably, even though we didn't realize it."  Xander nodded.  "The same as I know that some of this frustration has got to be with the women you work with."

"Unfortunately I'm seeing the same pattern.  You try to make Tony obtain an impossible goal.  I have to do the same.  All of us who're friends do."  Gibbs nodded at that.  "Still, a good commander checks his own troops, doesn't rely on the word of a lying brat who doesn't like most of your team.  She's been playing them against each other."

"I'm well aware of that and why."

"Then why do you let her use Tony?"

"Because he should be able to handle it."

"Can you?  Put yourself in his shoes, Gibbs."

"I have and you're right, this has been unreasonable this time.  She could've endangered his health."

"Like when he was beaten and she didn't tell you?"

"Point," he agreed.  "You're right, I wasn't paying attention to the right source."

Xander finished his milkshake.  "You know what, I've learned a lot in my years fighting and now training.  You can make someone do the impossible to jump through hoops.  They might even respect you and think that they like you, and you can brainwash them into being willing to give up their life for you, but it's not the same as real loyalty.  Real loyalty comes with a lot more respect than the former."

"I think I have the latter with Tony."

"You'd have to decide that for yourself."

"What do you have with your students?"

"I have the former.  They don't feel comfortable coming to me for personal questions about dating.  They don't want to hang out with me.  I definitely have the tough love respect that most Drill Instructors have.  Like them, most cadets don't hang with their DI's.  Even if given the choice."

"True," Gibbs agreed.  He stared at him. "Why do you stay?"

"Do you see someone else doing the job?"

"No," he admitted. "I haven't.  It was still mean sending Buffy to me.  Which is worse by the way?  Taylor and I talked when he found out who Tony was."

"Depends on your point of view.  You got grumpy, PMS Buffy.  He got logical but babbling Willow."  He smirked.  "You deserved her to be grumpier because you didn't check your  man yourself.  You really deserved some of my younger students."

"I'll remember that for the next time."  He handed Sai another fry, getting a shy grin.  He smiled back.  "Eat."  She nibbled.  "Now where are you going?"

"I'll be in town for a few days.  I filed to adopt her formally.  They don't like to acknowledge we exist but the old Council had some uses."

"What else have you learned?"

"Take sleep where you can get it.  Let someone else handle some of the dirty work.  If I had someone who would I wouldn't have visited six continents in ten months.  Then again, Buffy told a Customs guy that she was in the country for the reason of yes once."  Gibbs snickered.  "Exactly.  That and I can't imagine Buffy going where Sai came from, where I didn't get a shower for a month because their well was dry and their culvert system was leaking.  I spent a lot of time fixing it for them and trying to protect the village."

"I've done similar duty."

"They still got raided and taken to be used as cheap labor and stuff."

"I heard through the grapevine that it got stopped."  Xander looked at him then nodded.  "Good job from what I hear."

"They needed it.  I'm like that.  I have always been like that."

"So I was told."  He patted him on the arm.  "Next time, don't threaten me in front of my boss.  She tried to have you arrested."

"Is she the raving bitch who keeps trying to get into your panties?"

"No comment," he said, giving him a look.

"Didn't come from Tony, Gibbs.  We know a few of you around the office.  It came from another team."

"Interesting.  No comment."

"That's fine."  He handed Sai her water, getting a grin and her drinking it.  "Slowly," he ordered.  She drank slower and spilled less.  He looked at him.  "I'm here on vacation.  Do you think she's too young for the Smithsonian?"

"I don't know.  I'd almost think something she can run through, like the children's museum."

"I'll look into that.  Thanks, man."  He got up and winked at Sai, getting a grin and her arms being held up.  "I am sorry I had to break your wrist that time."  He picked her up and walked her off.

Gibbs cleaned up the mess and went back to the office, nodding at the person who had been watching them.  "So, what do you think?"

"I think he's as much a veteran as you are," Fornell admitted.  "What did you do that he broke your wrist?"

"I tried to get between him and DiNozzo when he was sick."

"Ah.  They're very tight friends."

"Like family," Gibbs agreed.

"He sounds like their mother."

"Mother hen," he said dryly.  "He had a point."

"Maybe."  He went his separate way, going to report to the director.

Gibbs went back to the office, looking at Tony.  "Six continents in ten months?"

"Half the time we can't find Xander," he admitted dryly.  "I know his upcoming schedule was Singapore, Shanghai, Africa, and then somewhere in Europe within the next four months."

"Does he ever get time at home or with you guys?"

Tony looked over and shook his head.  "Nope.  Not anymore. Then again we didn't get to go hover over him like we did some of the others.  His parents weren't that great and what he did was too dangerous so he never told us.  Danny found out he had an eye popped a few weeks after Sunnydale fell in.  It happened a few weeks before."

"So he was just out of the hospital when it happened?"

"He was in the middle of why it fell in when it happened."

Gibbs shuddered.  "Good to know.  He did apologize for breaking my wrist."

"That was nice of him."  He smirked at him.  "He did have a point."

"He's your mother hen?"

"Now and then.  We hardly ever get to fuss over him.  He's so used to battlefield injuries he never tells us.  I would but he won't let us."

"He still shouldn't threaten me openly."

"Next time have common sense, boss.  He was serious about offering me a job with them."

"I don't think the yappy thing would agree."

Tony smirked. "You'd be surprised.  They're suffering a bit since Xander isn't back yet.  Someone's got to take over his visiting schedule.  With Sai he's definitely not going to be traveling that often.  Any of us would be good for that after Xander trained us in the right sort of defense."

"Point."  He stared at him.  "Flesh wound?"  Tony nodded.  "You didn't say anything."

"Why would I after she said that?  Or about the dinner?" he asked quietly.  "You're lucky I came back from Miami, boss.  Wasn't exactly making me feel like a valued member of the team there."

"That was her call."

"I know that.  The same as me suffering from internal injuries and her telling you I was fine and playacting was.  The same as we both know why," he finished, spotting her coming.  "I'd rather it not always be on me."

"You're strong."

"I also have a finite limit."

"Agreed.  You should have one.  How was your vacation?"

"Not long enough," he said blandly.  "Haven't had one in a long time, boss."

"You could take one."

"I could but it doesn't seem to do much good recently."  He kicked back when Ziva got there.  "Did Xander got to the embassy this morning?"  Gibbs nodded.  "Good.  I like him being a daddy to Sai.  She's a sweet girl and she'll calm him down.  Plus stop some of the traveling so we can find him.  Did I tell you he spent six months on the African plain with a tribe working with one of the girls?  He got to wrestle a lion that was coming for the village."

"Did he win?" Ziva asked.

"Yeah, he's perfectly fine.  He got a bit scratched and a few new bite marks but they fought it off and he's fine.  He also spent a lot of time with the shaman and learned a lot while he was teaching."

"Is he in that peace corps thingy?" Ziva asked.

"Xander?  No.  He goes around recruiting for a very special group of young women.  Then he gets to train them when he's at home.  Which has been about never recently.  He's visited six continents in ten months."  She stared at him in horror.  He smirked and nodded.  "He just got back from Thailand.  He spent a month over there helping the village of one of the young girls that the group thinks should be part of them when she's older.  Since they were being raided by a group for cheap labor the mother let him adopt her.  He's a great father.  He's been mothering us for years."

"What happened to your friend in Miami?" McGee asked.

"A suspect was hiding in a closet with a nail gun.  He opened the door carefully but she still got him in the tear duct.  Thankfully we don't think he'll lose the eye.  He's a CSI down there.  We all went to fuss over him.  Xander came back from his month in Thailand and took a shower for the first time in a month then he dove in to help."

"Wow," Tim said.  "That's dedication."

Tony grinned.  "Their well was dry and the culverts for the fields were leaking.  He did a lot of work helping that problem to try to keep the girl there and safe.  In the end it wasn't enough.  Then again, the raiders kept coming until they died too."

"He's a very strong veteran," Gibbs agreed.  "He needs to retire."

"He does," Tony agreed.  "Sai will insure that."

"She will," he agreed with a smirk.  "Did you meet with Buffy?"

"Unfortunately once, boss.  I saw both of them together even, out shopping."  Gibbs shuddered.  "Exactly.  Just think, he grew up with Willow and Buffy was his other best friend."

"I'm so sorry for that man.  Maybe he should retire."

"They'd have to pay him back wages.  They don't want to do that."


"Very."  He got back to work when the director came by.  "Boss, why am I rewriting this report?"

"Spelling, DiNozzo."

"Oh, yeah."  He spell checked it then printed it and tossed it over like a frisbee.  "How's that?"  He got to work on the next one.

"Is that proper way to give that to your boss, Agent DiNozzo?" the director said coolly.

He looked at her.  "You wanted me to catch up on all the back reports, Director.  I'm trying to.  He caught it.  He knew."   He got back to his next report.

"Why were you off for three days?"

"One of my best friends got a nail stuck in the eye when a suspect was trying to evade capture."  He looked up.  "We think he'll be able to keep his eye thankfully but it's still touch and go."

"How long have you been friends?" Ziva asked.

"Thirteen."  He grinned.  "Since summer camp one year.  They're like my family, Ziva.  There's me, three CSI in different cities, and Xander."  He got back to work.  "Boss, spell Degrassi?"

"Like it sounds."

"Okay."  He typed that in.  Not quite looking right so he corrected it.  "Tell me if I got it wrong."  He went to the forensic report and retyped the name into his report.  Then he went on.  "How many do I have?"

"Four," McGee told him.  "Not counting the one you put out."

"Hmm.  Thanks."  He kept going, finishing that one and spell-checking it.  He put it aside and went on to the next one.  That one was in outline format.  He only had to flesh it out.  The other one as well.  They were done quickly and he checked them.  He printed them and walked them over.  "There.  Need more coffee, boss?"


Tony took both their cups to the break room, bringing them back filled.  "Here you go.  Any corrections?"  Gibbs wrote something across the top and handed one back.  "Fine."  He went to his computer to correct it.  "That's how Abby spelled it, boss."

"Hold that until I check."

"I can do that."  He put it aside and went back to his coffee and email reading.  "One from Ryan.  His eye is itchy and the antibiotics are making him feel nasty.  It's working but he's not sure it'll be perfect."

"It'll be fine, DiNozzo.  You can check on him later," Gibbs assured him.  "At home."

"I will be.  We've got to chat about what to get Sai since none of us have kids."

"That you know of," McGee teased.

"No, we'd know.  No other kids.  Just Xander's new daughter."  He smirked.  "What do you get a bilingual six-year-old girl for a toy?"

"Books," he said.

"Books are nice," he decided, writing a note to Xander's email.  It bounced back so he text messaged him.  Xander wrote back and he smiled.  "He's going to have to sue them for backpay, boss."

"I wish him luck."

"He'll expose the whole group.  They owe him a *lot* of money."  He smirked evilly.  "I guess that means he's gotta settle down somewhere. Maybe he'll be closer."

"Maybe he'll go to New York," McGee offered.  "Isn't one up there?"

"New York, Miami, and Las Vegas.  Vegas would remind him of home.  He's from near the desert."  He got back to work.  He got a text message a few minutes later and laughed.  "Giles paid him off, boss.  He's thinking about where he wants to settle down now.  So hey, we can find him all we want."

"Which one of you needs more mothering?" Gibbs asked.

"Depends on if you got Taylor's head out of his ass, boss."  Gibbs looked at him.  "We heard you talked."

"We did."

"Did you?"

"I don't know what the problem was."

"Danny rejected his father's gang lifestyle.  Got kicked out for it.  Taylor decided that Danny shouldn't be shaken after the first time he shot, he should be a perfect shot even though he's a CSI and not a cop, and that he should trust him when it seemed that he was trying to hang him out to dry."

"Then no, I didn't get his head out of his ass.  Send Xander up there."

"Don't tempt me.  Sorta like how he wanted to torch his former employers."

"As long as I don't have to see the yappy thing again."

"I can call Willow so you can compare."

"No thanks.  I don't need that sort of problem."  His phone rang.  "Where?"  He wrote it down.  "Be there within forty."  He hung up and his people were gathering their stuff. "In the Mall, people.  Gas the truck, McGee."

"Yes, boss."  He caught the keys and headed down to do that while the others followed.  He looked at Tony in the elevator.  "She was cute when she was here."

"She's very loving and doesn't really understand tv yet.  She loved the gardening shows and helping Ryan and Greg in the kitchen.  She's a beautiful little girl and she'll make a great niece to the family.  We'll spoil her rotten."  They walked off the elevator. "I'm driving."

"I can drive," McGee promised.

"Okay, you can drive," he agreed.  "I get shotgun."  He climbed in and McGee got the driver's side, checking the gas gauge.  It was full so they only had to wait for Ziva to get in.  "Need directions?"

"I hope not."  He backed out of the spot and headed off in the right direction.


Xander got everyone on a conference call that night.  "Where am I moving, people?  The Council let me go and paid me my back pay."  He checked on Sai, who was napping then smiled at the phone again.  "Come on, guys."

"You could come to New York but cost of living is outrageous," Danny complained.  "You'd have to hunt for good schools."

"We've got good schools but I'm not sure Sai would be comfortable in Las Vegas," Greg admitted.

"You could come to Miami," Ryan offered.  "Same cost of living as New York.  How much was your back pay?"

"Let's put it this way.  I was supposed to get the same pay as Buffy and Willow once the new Council was set up.  That was four years ago?  Five almost now.  They get a grand a month plus living arrangements.  I was getting travel expenses."

Danny did the mental math.  "Seventy-two grand won't buy you much, Xander."

"I can rent."

"Buy, it's better in the long run," Greg told him.  "Plus a yard for her."

"I was thinking cheap condo."

"No, don't," Greg sighed.  "Can you get more?"

"Yuppers.  Because no one ever looked at what Giles had me doing before, guys.  Let's just say, money's not an issue.  I can go up to maybe a few hundred thou with the insurance stuff I've got invested from Sunnydale and my policy that paid off from my eye."

"That'll get you a house," Tony offered.  "Not a great one but it'll be something."

"Guys, three years in construction," Xander reminded them.  "I can do minor repairs."

"Good point," Greg agreed.  "I guess it's up to you.  Do you want to come live near us?"

"I wish we were in the same city," Xander complained.

"Us too," Ryan sighed.

"Bad day?"

"Long day.  I got babied all day too.  Where do you want to live, Xander?"

"Somewhere I'm not traveling all the time."

"You could go to Montana.  I hear it's nice up there," Danny said dryly.

"You do know that she and Willow talked too?" Xander retorted.  "But yes, I hear it is.  Sai would go nuts in the snow."

"She so would," Greg agreed happily.  "Sorry, Griss, helping Xander decide where he's moving since he got fired."  Grissom said something quietly.  "He just adopted a young girl.  A few hundred thousand."  He smiled.  "He said you can get a nice place out here, Xander."

"I know.  Do you want me there? If one of you guys needs me more I'm there."

"I'd rather have you on the east coast," Greg admitted.  "Miami's kinda dangerous with the hurricanes and Sai wouldn't be comfortable in the desert.  Not that I don't want you here.  I do.  I very muchly do, Xander."

"I know.   You can come visit or we can."

Greg grinned, you could hear it.  "Of course I can.  Danny?"

"New York's New York, guys.  It's not like it's gonna change.  Tony, what about DC?"

"We've got our bad and good areas but the cost of living is just as high and I'm not sure Gibbs wouldn't complain if I blew off work to hang with Xander and Sai.  Hey, boss, can Xander stay in DC or are you gonna pitch a hissy?"  He laughed suddenly.  "He just gave me this look of 'I'll smack you later, DiNozzo'.  Ry?"

"Hurricanes are bad," he admitted.  "Plus we're having a small Mala Noche insurgence.  I don't want him to have to jump in."

"DC's closer in case the heathen brats need something," Danny agreed. "Plus hey, not that far to commute.  Just over an hour by plane.  One leaves about every hour.  It's a bit cheaper according to the housing site I just looked on.  Tony?"

"Depends on where he looks, guys.  If he goes to the bad section, yeah.  If not, then no.  You really don't have a preference, Xander?"

"Near at least one of you guys."

"DC's as near as you're getting probably," Ryan offered.  "There's not that long of a flight for me or Danny.  Greg could use the vacation time he has built up.  Get something with at least a guest bedroom.  You'll be the only one with a house."

"I can do that," Xander agreed happily.  "Thanks, guys.  I'll talk to you in a while.  I need to call someone.  Love you guys, miss you already."  He hung up and called LA.  "Gunn, Xander.  Well, I got fired from the Council and Giles gave me my actual backpay, does that count?"  He grinned.  "Exactly but you've got the access to my storage container.  Well, yeah, I would like to.  Not the personal stuff.  If I do, can I make Connor babysit?  He'll get that really confused look on his face.  Sure.  I can be out there in two days with Sai.  Thanks, man."  He hung up and went to his own bed, snuggling in for the night.  Thankfully his stuff from Cleveland was mostly in storage anyway.  He only kept clothes at the base since he was never there.


Xander walked into a realtor five days later, smiling, Sai on his back.  "Hi."   He put his daughter down.  "We need a place to live.  It's got to have room for us, a home office, a guest bedroom, and a kitchen because I can cook.  I'd like a yard, but with a fence if possible."

"Where were you thinking of living?"

"Somewhere with a decent educational system.  She's Thai.  She's just now learning English."

"Okay."  She waved at her chair and he sat down with Sai in his lap.  "She's how old?"

"Six.  I'm home schooling her this year to get her used to English."

"That's reasonable," she said with a smile.  "How much were you looking to spend?"

"I have access to about three hundred thousand right now.  I'm also moving and thinking about investment opportunities."

"That's not going to get you much around here."   She typed in what he wanted, then started to downgrade when nothing came up.  "I can get you one with a yard but no fence.  Two bedrooms."

"I spent three years in construction."

"Okay, then we may be able to find you something."   She went into that database, looking it over.  "Full habitation?"

"If possible, yes."

She nodded, checking that button.  Not a whole to came up but it was something.  "Those are mostly in the worst parts of town."  Someone else walked in.  "I'll be right with you, sir."

"I'm with Xander.  He's a buddy."  He sat down, taking Sai to hold, getting a hug.  "Hi, baby girl."  He grinned at her.  Then at Xander.  "Someone sent Gibbs a note about your warehouse."

"It went to others in the business.  It was mostly personal effects."

"I know that now.  Tapdancing, Xander."

"I owe you dinner?"

"Yeah," he said dryly.  "And Gibbs."

"Sure."  He nodded.  "I can do that too."  He pulled out a list.  "We went cruising last night.  How much do these go for?"

She looked them up, handing the sheet back.  Tony looked and gaped.  "It's a high price market."

"Obviously.  What about outside the city?  Say within a thirty minute commute?"  She redid the search with that criteria and smiled.  "We find something?"

"We found something very nice," she admitted.  "It's on the Maryland side of DC.   Or we have on the West Virginia border that's nice."

"I don't care.  I've hit six continents in ten months.  I want a home," Xander told her.

She smiled.  "Then you'll be easy to please.  Let's look at the first one.  Are you going with us, sir?"

"I sure am.  I'm going to be visiting often."  That got a nod and they followed her out to her car.  Tony took the address since Xander had cabbed over.  They got Sai into his car and took off after her, actually beating her there since Tony knew his way around the area so well.  He looked at the house then at Xander.  "Do you like this?"

Xander shrugged.  "I don't care.  I can be happy anywhere, Tony."

"Good point."  He looked at the house.  "I'm hoping the other one's better.  This one's kinda...tilted."

"It is," Xander admitted.  "That's a major repair.  Not in move-in condition."  The real estate agent got out and he rolled down the window.  "You do realize you can't move in with the house tilting like that?"  She shook her head.  "You can't.  No building inspector would let you."

"Then let's look at the other one."

"Sure."  He rolled back up the window and they went there.  It was a bit farther out but actually a little closer to Tony's work than the other one thanks to an interstate.  It was a nicer house.  It had less wear and tear.  It had a yard front and back.  Xander got out and looked around.  It wasn't great.  It was bigger.  It was okay but something was creeping him out.  He looked at the realtor.  "Deaths here?"

"Three to carbon monoxide poisoning."

"Have it reblessed?" he asked.  She looked stunned.  "Sometimes it can make a difference."  He looked around, touching the walls while Tony showed Sai what roses were. He frowned.  "That back bedroom is a fire hazard," he said quietly.  She looked then moaned and nodded.  "Got anything else?"

"Not really."

"What about outside your own listings?"

"Well...."  She opened her laptop to look.  "I do.  Huh."  She gave Tony the address, patting Sai on the head as she walked past them.  "Meet me there, boys."  She got into her car and drove.

Xander looked then at Tony.  "Okay?"

"It's a nice small town.  Driven through there a few times."

"That won't bother me."  They got Sai back in, even though she wanted to play.  The place was nice.  Old farmhouse.  Nice land.  Old barn that needed to be torn down.  The house was nice.  Solid.  Well loved and warm.  They walked through it and he looked at Tony.  "Not the sorta house you grew up in or me."

"Not hardly.  You like it?  It's really large."

"Maybe I'll adopt more kids some year," he teased.  "Or one of you guys will."

"It could happen," Tony admitted.  "I won't rule that out."  They toured it again and he smiled.  "A bit big but nice.  We like this a lot."

"Let me see."  She typed something in and nodded.  "I think I can."  She led them to another property, this one very close to where Tony lived, which was fairy cheap but not that suburban fairytale land where everything was manicured lawns.  The house needed some work.  The kitchen could use a lot of work.  It had almost no cabinets.  It had a floor that could be replaced.  It needed painting badly.  All stuff Xander could do.  They toured it.  It had four bedrooms and a furnished room downstairs that could be another one or an office.  Or both knowing him.  It had a great lawn with a fence.  Xander looked at her so she printed off the particulars.  "It's been on the market for a while, boys.  The former owners died about two years ago and the children want to sell it."

Xander looked at the price then at Tony.  "Can I borrow five bucks?"

"Sure.  Why?"  He looked then at her.  "Can we go lower?"

"They're almost desperate.  I can see how low they'd be willing to go."  Xander nodded and handed back the sheet, watching her walk out onto the porch.  She smiled when she got one of the daughters.  "Hi, this is Mrs. Abrhams with Remax.  I just showed your house to a very nice young man and his adopted daughter.  They would but they're a bit iffy on the price right now.  That's what I was thinking.  I know you wanted to finish dealing with the estate and he's looking to move in almost immediately.  No, his last job was a bit stressful so he left it.  He's been on six continents in ten months according to him.  Exactly," she agreed happily.  "We were thinking half that?  In today's market that's about reasonable for this neighborhood.  That's what we would want, yes.  No, those flaws don't bother him.  He worked in construction back in high school.  He's got a beautiful six- year-old daughter he adopted.  A friend in the area who helped him look.  Wonderful."  She beamed at Xander and nodded.  "We're here right now if you're free.  That would be fine.  We'll see you then.  Have an excellent afternoon."  She hung up and walked inside.  "She wants to meet you this evening at five."

"We can be back here," Tony promised.  "Cases willing."  She looked at him.  "I'm with NCIS.  It's an investigative agency."

"I can be here," Xander promised.  "Not much else to do.  How's the school system?"

"Fairly good.  About middle of the road.  Not any violence issues or anything but not exclusive prep school class."  She checked her watch.  "It's about three now, boys."

"We can have a late lunch and come back," Tony promised with a smile.  That got a nod and he took Sai back to the car, watching her fall asleep.  He drove them through a fast food place, sitting in a nearby park to eat and talk.  "You so nearly got busted, Xander."

"Sorry. At least I sold it to people in the business.  Ones who aren't going to go after a plane or something."

"Which is about the saving grace.  That and the ones who asked knew about the old Council."  Xander snorted.  "They hindering you?"

"Nope.  Though I do have a few other tricks up my sleeve. Including the books I saved from Sunnydale that Giles didn't."  Tony looked at him.  He smirked and nodded. "Oh, yeah.  I knew it was going to happen.  I had time to heal and think in the hospital.  It was in storage anyway.  I had a moving company move it.  Giles got insurance off it."

"That could be counted as theft," he warned.

"Not really.  The name on the storage container was mine.  Giles did that since I had a blank credit rating to get it started.  On the form he swore everything in it was my property.  He never asked about it either.  I almost did the altruistic thing and gave it to them until they decided I was worthless before we moved to Cleveland.  Then I decided fuck it.  I'm a mean bastard."

"Don't swear in front of her."

"Sorry."  He glanced back.  "She's still sleeping.  She's so cute!" he cooed, smiling at Tony.  "I got the paperwork today.  She's mine."


"Thanks."  He beamed.  "Now what do I do?"

"That depends.  Are you planning any other illegal activities I probably shouldn't know about?"

"That's not blackmail.  I'll auction them.  I even hinted that I had some.  Giles didn't seem to care.  Plus the stuff we got off Dracula."  Tony spluttered.  "Yeah, he showed up.  Woosy little pansy too.  Then again, I ended up eating bugs so that might just be me.  Anyway, he left and left all his crap there.  So we stored it for him.  Giles said repeatedly when I asked that it was tacky.  He didn't want it.  He said repeatedly he didn't want it or the stuff we found when he sent us to break into conclaves to clear them out.  Or the stuff we looted from the Initiative, though I will give you that if you want."

"How big is your storage area?" Tony asked.

"I've got a few all over LA.  Gunn knows where they are so I can even decorate cheaply," he offered with a grin.  He heard Sai wake up and handed back a burger.  "Eat it.  We're almost done.  Time?"

"Forty minutes."  He looked at his watch just in case.  "Forty-two minutes if you want to be exact."  He looked at him.  "Giles had you breaking into enclaves to kill vampires?"  Xander nodded.  "Big ones?"

"Yeah, whole nests, complete homey caves.  Then they complained that the vampire had clothes and stuff stored.  The clothes went to the thrift shops.  The stuff in there that might be important, like books and diaries, got saved.  Then Giles scoffed at that until I found a plot to take over a certain magic shop he used to run and use it as a base of operations after turning him so he could get us.  He was not happy."

"I wouldn't be either."  He started the car.  "What about his stuff?"

"It was Council stuff.  Not his.  Besides, he turned it over to me when he signed those papers at the warehouse.  Gunn said so and he's a lawyer. That's why I went to see him.  Well that and he knows the other hunters.  What Angel's crew didn't buy he made sure the other stuff went to people in the business."

"Good.  Really good.  No more weapons, right?"

"Only personal use."

"Tha'tll work."  He backed them out of the parking spot and headed back to the house. "You sure you can settle down?"

"I will beg to settle down, man."

"Okay.  When are you going to tell Giles about the other stuff?"

"Never.  I gave Willow a listing of what I had in storage long, long ago and she never cared to look.  She filed it.  Giles didn't look.  Giles didn't think to ask about the books.  I tried. They didn't care.  Oh well."  Tony nodded at that.  "And some of those books are priceless.  Including Watcher's diaries and things."

"Ooh, those sound important."

"Oh, yeah.  Very.  Like vitally."  They parked and he got Sai out, smiling at her hamburger.  "Good, you finish that."  She went back to eating and he smiled at the family parking in the driveway.  "Hi, I'm Xander.  I'm looking to buy this one."  He shook their hands.  "This is Sai, she's my daughter.  This is Tony, he's an old friend who works in one of the Federal agencies."  They nodded and went inside with the realtor.   He let them look around while Tony guarded Sai for him - mostly keeping her amused in the quiet, bare room.  "How soon could we close the deal?" he asked the realtor.  "I've got stuff in storage in LA."

"I think we could do it within a reasonable amount of time."  She went to talk to the family, coming back with a reasonable offer. "How's this, Mr. Harris?"  He looked it over, nodding at it, then signing it.  "It's been a pleasure helping you find a home."  She took it back to the family, letting them sign it.  "There we go.  I'll file the paperwork tomorrow.  Where are you staying, Mr. Harris?"

"The Belvedere.  It's not much but it'll do for a week or so.  She likes it.  They've got nice plants and she loves to garden."  The mother smiled.  "Her village was almost wiped out by raiders.  Her mother wanted her protected and I fell in love with her when I was there helping repair their water system.  We agreed she could come live with me because it'd be safer, she's get a great education, and she could go back someday as a doctor or something. She's Thai."

"I'm sure her mother is happy with what good care you take of her," the mother said gently.

"We're pretty happy.  She used to come watch me dig holes to fix pipes and giggle at me all day long."  Sai beamed at him so he picked her up.  "Didn't you?"  He said something and she laughed, hugging him around the neck.

"We'll expedite it as soon as we can," the realtor assured him.

Xander used his phone to text Gunn, who had power over his hidden accounts.  "I gave my lawyer your number and he'll call you in the morning with the wire transfer for the amount agreed upon," he promised with a smile.  She nodded and let them out, waving at him and Tony as they went off.  "Thanks, man."

"Welcome, Xander.  I'd let you stay at my place if you wanted."

"No, it's fine.  We're good.  She's enjoying the plants a lot.  Keeps trying to dig up the aloe plants they've got."

"No more evil Xander empire, right?"

"No, I'm getting rid of the evil Xander empire so I can see what a normal Xander is like."

"Bored," Tony said dryly.

"Probably.  Yeah."  He smiled as they parked in Tony's parking lot and went inside to have dinner, him helping cook since he was getting pretty good at it.  "I should add a fire pit so I can cook like I learned on my travels."

"They make these inventions called grills," Tony said dryly.

"Yeah but you can't roast a whole goat over a grill, Tony."

"I don't know anyone but Ziva who would help you eat the goat."

"You had goat the other day and liked it."

"Really?  I thought it was lamb."

"Nope, goat."

"Huh.  Not that bad that way."  Xander beamed at him and got back to work.  "How are we doing at teaching her English?"

"Well, Wesley taught her to say bugger when he pounded his thumb once."  Tony snickered at that.  "We had a few hours layover so Greg and Hodges taught her a few new words too.  Hodges' place was being sprayed so he had Greg's couch.  She learned some of the basic words and some command words, like 'stop it'.  She kept trying to play Greg's DVDs in the VCR.  She learned that one pretty quick but Greg loved on her and did her hair pretty so she adored him.  She giggled when I swore in Latin this morning because she pounced me at four.  She thought it was cute and some cartons cured that so she went back to sleep."  His phone rang and he sighed, answering it.  "What's wrong, Gunn?"  He looked at Tony.  "They froze my accounts?"

"Maybe the director did.  We didn't."

He listened to Gunn, letting Tony have the meat he was dredging.  "Just the one side, Tony.  You don't want the crust on both."  He listened to him, then shook his head.  "No, that's not acceptable.  Have them prove it.  Put the idiot monger on...oh, him.  Hi, Don.  Yup.  Nope, moving to DC.  Full time, yes.  Actually settling down with Sai.  Well, I've got to come back because I'm auctioning some of the assorted crap I have stored around.  What got broken into and can you please unfreeze my accounts since it went to other hunters?  Yeah, putting down money on a house in the morning.  Thanks."  He nodded.  "That'll work.  What did  they want?  Really?  I didn't know there were other Watchers that Giles had kicked out.  Sure."  He listened to the complaining Welsh voice.  "Shut up."  The voice gasped.  "This is Xander Harris.  As in Buffy's Xander.  Giles gave me those books.  He signed them over to my custody.  I'm more than willing to sell them to whichever side wants them more.  Because Giles pissed me off by treating me like crap.  Yup, that's me too.  I'm *reasonable* not stupid, dear."  He nodded.

"That's more than fair.  I'm in DC.  Send it to an account out here.  Anthony DiNozzo.  That'll work. Thank you.  And please do have my other ones unfrozen by whoever did it, Don."  He smirked.  "I figured you were listening.  Yeah, I've got a few.  Why, what were you looking for?  I've got six or seven RPG's.  Why?  Israeli.  Again, why?"  He smirked. "I don't know where they came from, Don.  All I know is I bought them legitimately.  I tell you what.  You unfreeze my accounts and I'll be back in about two weeks.  I've got to go through the rest of the stored stuff so I can use some of the stored furniture at the new house in DC.  Then you can have whatever of the weapons you feel are dangerous.  Then I'm selling most everything else.  How about that?"  He nodded.  "That's reasonable.  Yup, that's him.  Because Tony's an old friend and if you lock my accounts I can't pay for my house.  Exactly, Don.  Good.  I'm here.  This is still my phone, even when Sai tries to use it as a bath toy.  I'll bring her back next time since she loved Charlie's hair so much and your dad cooed.  Of course.  Thanks, man.  See you in two weeks.  Laters.  Kiss and hug everyone you should. Or shouldn't if you feel like hitting on someone."  He hung up and looked at him.  "Sorry."



"Really?" he asked dryly, staring at him.  "How?"

"Nearly eaten and I saved his ass during a raid on a vamp bar that had drug cartel vamps.  He appreciates me.  They'll unseal mine but one of the purchasers just named me."  Tony groaned.  "Then again he said I was a hunter of demons so it was reasonable.  Don'll get it fixed; I'll let him take the rest of the artillery if he wants.  Not too big of a price to pay.  Then I'll sell whatever's not coming here.  The other Watchers stole the records to find out what happened to Giles' book collection.  They're willing to pay through the nose for it.  Which I appreciate of course.  It'll cover the house and living expenses, plus that trip.  Hey, Sai, wanna go see Charlie in a few days?  Play with his hair again?"  She squealed and ran in, hiding behind Tony.  "Hmm.  Sounds like she saw someone coming."

Tony went to answer the door, finding Ziva there.  "Not a good night," he said.

"I came to see if you were all right.  Gibbs said you took a personal day."

"I'm fine. I was helping Xander house hunt."  Sai looked at the woman and he looked down at her.  "No, she won't play with you.  Go water my plants for me?"  She beamed and did that.  "She loves plants."

"Is she yours?"


"Oh."  She looked at him.  "May I come in?"

"No.  You and Xander will have a fight and he can kill you.  Gibbs would be mad if he had to interview for a new probie this week.  I'll be at work tomorrow.  Gibbs knew where I was.  I called him a few times to check in."

"I was worried, not him."

"That's fine.  Just a day off, Ziva.  I'll see you at work tomorrow.  Have a good night."  He closed the door and went back to helping Xander cook.  "How much are they offering you for those books?"

"Ten grand a tome."

"How many are there?"

"A storage room the size of your bedroom.  Stuffed full I might add.  No room to walk."  Tony leaned on the counter, staring at him in shock.  Xander smirked and nodded.  "Then if Giles wants them he can beg them for them instead of me having to deal with them.  Though, all the magic books are not in there.  I made damn sure Willow wasn't getting into them."

"Good job," he said, patting him on the back.  "Would you be my sugar daddy?"

Xander smirked.  "I'd expect services for it.  Cut the grass for me?"

"Sure, I like lawncare for prezzies," he teased back.

"You and Greg both but I've *got* to send Greg that pink pleather bustier I found."

"Pink pleather bustier," he said, considering it.  "Greg would wear that."

"Yup.  To work even," he said with an evil grin.

"Halloween," they moaned in unison.

"Hey, I'll get to help Sprout go out on candy stroll," Tony realized.

"Sure will.  Think we could get most of us together that night?"

"Ryan would kill us if we dressed him in our usual outfits."

"True," Xander agreed, "but I think he'd make a great Buffy impersonation."

Tony shuddered. "Evil thoughts, Xander.  Evil, bad, mean thoughts to Ry.  You need laid."

"I know," he sighed.  "But hey, now I can make a love palace."

"You can't troop women in and out of the house with her there, Xander."

"Point," he complained.  "We'll figure that part out.   Cordy ascended.  Maybe I'll call her up."

Tony felt his forehead.  "Are you feeling all right?"  Xander ducked but he walked him out and put him onto the couch. "Sai, he's not feeling well.  He needs cuddles."  She climbed up on Xander to cuddle him while Tony went to finish dinner.


A few weeks later, Tony walked a set of pictures into Abby's lab.  "What self-respecting vampire would decorate like this?"

She looked them over.  "A very femme, girly one?" she guessed.  "Are they?"

"Yeah, Xander inherited it.  It came from a guy calling himself Dracula.  He even had the Three Sisters hanging around.  He went to Sunnydale and had to leave suddenly after getting into a fight with Buffy so Xander raided his crap.  Since he never came back to claim it, he sold most of it recently but decorated with some of it."

"Well, it's all old world stuff, but the gold and strawberry lamme, gotta go."  Tony grinned and showed her a picture.  "Aww, she's adorable!  Who is she?"

"Xander's daughter Sai.  She's Thai, he adopted her."


"We get to go on candy stroll soon," he said with an evil smirk.

"I know some of the best places."

"Sure, you can come. You and Xander can get bouncy together on your chocolate high."

The director walked in with one of the internal affairs officers with her.  "Agent DiNozzo, this agent has questions about some deposits made into your accounts recently."

"They're my friend Xander's.  He's just moved into the city," he told him.  "His was in flux so he put it into my account so he could pay the realtor."

"What did he do to earn that?"

"He had some ancient books in storage and a book collector bought his whole collection of mythology, paranormal, and alternate religion texts."

"I see.  Who is this friend?"

"Xander Harris. Formerly of Sunnydale, then Cleveland.  He worked with a group called the Watchers Council?"  The agent went pale.  "They came to a parting of the ways when he complained about how much traveling he was doing.  This is Xander's first real home with his new daughter.  He just adopted out of Thailand; from a village he helped save."

"Interesting," he said quietly.  "I've heard he's a weapons collector?"

"He recently sold some of that to other collectors, making sure none were on the watch list or anything.  His daughter's only six."  He showed him a picture.  "He also had some older furniture and other odds and ends in storage that he got rid of."

"I see."  He handed the picture back.  "He's settling in here?"

"Xander and I are ancient friends," he said with a happy beam.  "He came up and threatened Gibbs when I had the plague."

"Broke his wrist," Abby agreed.

The agent nodded. "Then you were simply helping out an old friend.  That's fine.  Is more coming?"

"His got straightened out.  Apparently one of the collectors he bought from had something less than legal and named him so he had to fight back out there.  He's cleared, his accounts are open, and everything's good.  He's fully decorated, his daughter's wonderful, and we're planning Halloween things."

"Wonderful.  I'll make note of that for you," he agreed happily.  "Thank you for clearing that up, Agent DiNozzo."

"I'm always happy to help in reasonable matters."  The agent nodded and left.  That had gone too easy, so the agent knew the Council of old.  That was one organization that could rut you in mud for *decades* if you asked them anything they didn't want to answer.  He smiled at the director.  "Did you get to meet Xander the last time he was up here?"  She stomped off. "I'll take that as a yes."  He turned and grinned a maniacal grin at Abby.  "I'm off to work."  He took the pictures up there, showing them to Gibbs.

"Strawberry colored shiny fabric?"

"Yeah, Dracula left it in Sunnydale and he didn't want it anymore so Xander sold it.  He found it a long time ago, boss."  He sat down.  "Sai's picture is in there too."

He found it and smiled.  "She's an adorable little girl."

"We'd planning Halloween stuff."

Gibbs looked over.  "Watch out for Abby's candy route."

"But boss.... candy is necessary for Halloween.  Xander bounces just as much as she does.  Speaking of, I should introduce them," he mused.  "They might get along very well."

"They might," Gibbs agreed, handing the pictures back.  "Is he back?"

"Yeah, fully back, fully decorated, all the pretty swords and everything have blade guards now.  Sai thinks it's cute he's got a sword in the kitchen next to the fridge.  She wants to see him chop chickens with it."  Gibbs smirked at that.  "She does.  Oh, the director found out Xander transferred some of his funds into my account before buying his house.  She had me questioned just now but he found the excuse reasonable."

"Good.  Anything else coming?"

"Candy stroll costumes," he said happily.  "Some of the others might even get to come in."

"If we're off that night you can go."

"He knows.  If not, we'll have a belated one at the house."  Gibbs nodded at that.  "So anyway," he sighed.  "This new dead guy, boss.  He's not in the military database by fingerprints.  What makes you so sure he's ours?"

"Army Criminal Investigative Service said he was," he said.  "I've asked them how they knew, they walked off.  Can you find him anywhere?"

"Not yet."  He went back to his searches.  "Oops, spoke too soon.  Found him by fingerprints in the FBI database."  He beamed it over to their extra, briefing monitor.  "That look like him?"

"Ten years ago," he agreed, getting up to look at it.  "Good work."

"Thanks, boss.  Has Ducky said anything yet?"

"Nothing conclusive.  Only that his mother was fine."

"She chain him to the bathtub again?"

"Yeah, I sent McGee to get him undone."  He looked at him.  "So what was he doing at the Pentagon when he fell?"

"Working on that now, boss."  He got into the Pentagon personnel list.


Xander walked into Danny's precinct, smiling happily at the receptionist. "Is Danny in?" he asked quietly.

"Somewhere.  Let me page him."

"Sure."  He sat down, smiling happily.  Ryan was in on a vacation and Danny needed help.  Ryan was playing with his daughter today for him.  Stella walked past him and he admired the view but nothing else.  The receptionist motioned him over.  "I take it he's out?"

"He is."

"Is Mr. Taylor in then?"

"I think he is."  She called him down and Xander followed him back to his office.  "Such a polite young man."

Xander walked in behind Mac and closed his office door.  "How fucking dare you," he said quietly, staring him down.  "What, Willow wasn't able to get through?" he asked at the opening mouth.  "Why would you expect *Danny*, who gave up a life of violence, to know what to do with a gun?"  Mac stepped back when he stepped closer.  "Good idea," he assured him.  "See, Danny *gave up* the violent life.  He probably doesn't like guns.  He sure as hell didn't after the last problem," he said, glaring at him.  "Did you help him with that?"  Mac opened his mouth.  "That was a rhetorical question, Taylor, I already know the answer to that one."

"Who are you?"


Mac swallowed.  "I talked with Gibbs about you once."

"Good.  Was that after I broke his wrist or after I sent someone to torture him?"  He moved a bit closer.  "I'm about to have you taken out by something so you quit hurting Danny on purpose.  Because you are.  Quite often.  You're expecting him to be a Marine and perfect.  Well, he's never been in the service and he's human.  Maybe you should remember what that's like," he said, staring him down.  "Because I know you're not perfect either, Taylor.  Not in any way.  Now, Danny has support.  Other CSI, myself, my daughter.  I will see you taken out if you hurt my friend that much again because he doesn't do guns."

"It's a skill...."

"Really?  I know you're taught.  Hmm, and yet, he's a scientist first.  Not a cop first.  He's a CSI for a reason, Taylor.  Maybe if you got off your high horse you'd see what was going on in your own unit.  Surprisingly enough the last time I had to have this talk with Gibbs, he learned.  You, I'm not so sure of."

"This is my office...."

"And I can call something in here to have you eaten," he said simply.  "I am a former Watcher, Taylor."  He went pale.  "Am I *very* clear why you're going to actually start treating Danny like he's human instead of a robot?  Yes, his shot went wide.  I'm surprised he cleans his gun.  Other CSI haven't in the past because they're science people and not cops first," he said very calmly.  The door slammed open and Xander looked at the guy standing there.  "Yes, I know who you are too."  He looked at Mac again.  "Try seeing reality, Taylor.  It'd be a nice change.  No one in this office is anything but human, even you, even when you don't like to admit it."  He looked at the detective.  "Thank you for being there for Danny when I couldn't."  The detective nodded once.  He smiled. "It's all right, had to have a talk with a stubborn ass Marine who forgot what being a good commander was.  Now and then the bureaucrat breaks badder than the commander."  He shrugged and walked past him, walking off.  He found Danny coming in, stopping him to look at him.  "You haven't eaten recently.  You're not sleeping.  Come see Sai soon?"

"If I've got a job," he said grimly.

"Not my fault he forgot what being a good commander was," he said quietly.  "Especially since he only holds you to that standard.  If he held others to it I'd be shocked," he said at the opening mouth.  Danny shrugged one-sided at that.  "Come see me soon.  We'll feed you and get you to resting again."  He patted him on the cheek and smiled, handing over a picture.  "Sai at Halloween."  He winked and walked off.  He was proud, he hadn't screamed at him like he had Gibbs.  He hoped he didn't have to have this talk with anyone else this year.  Twice was too many times.

Danny tucked the picture into his wallet and went to see Mac.  "I'm sorry I have very overprotective friends.  I'm surprised he didn't kidnap me."  He walked off again, going to analyze what he had from his last case.

Mac sat down, looking at Don.  "Why did you break in?"

"Something was clearly wrong.  The door was closed.  I saw you back away from him."

"He's a former Watcher."

"Ah.  Those freaks.  That explains a lot.  How does Danny know them?"

"You'd have to ask him."  He frowned at the lab where Danny was working.  "He's lost weight?"

"Well, yeah, Mac.  Duh.  You're holding him to a superhuman standard that not even I can match," Flack told him.  "Hell, not even Stella can do some of what you expect from him, Mac.  First you expect him to talk about personal issues that you had no business being involved in, even though you knew enough ta ask him about it, and then you expect him to know guns when he hates guns.  We're damn lucky he's not like that CSI they had down in Miami who got shot because his misfired.  Mostly because I call and nag Danny every few weeks ta clean his piece while I do mine."

"Thank you for that."

"It needs ta be done.  Anyone could've told you he'd have gun issues, Mac.  After all, he gave up being a Messer to come here."  He stared at him for a minute.  "You gonna go talk to him?"

"I'm thinking."

"You're brooding.  Big difference.  You're making him paranoid too.  Not many guys have someone who loves 'em enough to threaten their boss for 'em."  He walked out, going to lean into that lab.  "You're still good, even if Mac is brooding."

Danny looked at him.  "I'm sure Xander spoke a lot of truth and I'm not so sure I don't wanna quit anyway," he said quietly.  "I've had about enough of Mac and this city at the moment."

"So take a few days off.  Go yell at your friend."

"He did invite me down ta eat and sleep."  He went back to work.  "He's got a cute daughter.  He adopted overseas after helping save her village.  Her mother wanted her safe."  He pulled out the picture.  "That's Halloween."

Don smiled.  "She's adorable.  What's her name?"

"Sai.  She's like the niece of all of us.  Xander's the only one of us who didn't go to college.  He's understood the rest of us since day one."

"How long have you known him?"

"Thirteen.  Summer camp.  Some church group sent Xander and the rest of us got sent there to be straightened out."  He put the picture back.  "It's funny.  Most of us are as tight as brothers but we couldn't keep in as good of contact with Xander thanks to his parents and then his job later.  He's spent the last five years going all over the world training people."

"Mac said he was a Watcher," Don told him.

"He was.  They fired him recently because he complained about the traveling and the lack of his salary.  He's been on six continents in ten months. He spent eight months in Africa a few years back.  He was in Thailand helping Sai's village for nearly a month. Took out a bunch'a raiders for 'em.   We love Xander but we couldn't always be there.  He'll baby the hell outta us.  Won't let us do it to him though."

"Sounds like a self-esteem problem."

"Not surprising.  Did you get to meet Willow when she was up here?  Fount of babbling redhead?"  Don shuddered but nodded.  "That was his best friend back in Sunnydale."  He let out a bitter laugh. "Xander lost an eye and didn't tell us.  It was right before Sunnydale fell in.  He was there participating in it.  He didn't tell us so we could come check on him, but he showed up for my graduation that way and refused ta talk about it.  Helped me celebrate all weekend.  The only time he broke...."  He took a deep breath.  "The only time he broke he was so drunk he was able ta cry about it.  Took me most of the night ta get it outta him.  It nearly destroyed him and his friends weren't helping.  But we were all starting our careers.  Not matter what, Xander's always been there for us."

"Then repay it," Don told him.

"We will, and would if he'd let us know when he needs it.  He won't even talk about most of his travels and training stuff.  Bits and pieces.  He had to help fight off an attacking lion once."  Don smiled at that.  "Said he got scratched really badly and got a few new bite marks.  He's the one they sent out after the girls the Watchers train.  He also did their physical training."

"He sounds like a nice guy, who just told Mac he forgot being a commander in favor of being a paper pusher."

"Xander usually rants the truth when one of us is bothered.  Our friend Tony works for this hadass Marine in DC at NCIS.  He went off on him a few times too.   Mostly the same thing.  Mac should've expected it since those two talked when we went to Miami to baby Ryan after he got a nail in the eye from a suspect."

"Ow," Don moaned.

"Hiding suspect with a nail gun.  He's damn lucky he didn't lose it.  Tony got the plague.  Xander helped him.  After the whole Tanglewood thing I spent hours on the phone with Xander.  That was right around when Tony got sick so he kept promising to come up and kick Mac's ass then.  I made him promise not to try.  He probably could."

"He's probably learned a lot," Don agreed.  "When he needs you guys, you'll be there."

"We weren't when he got Dengue Fever," he said bitterly.

"You probably couldn't have gotten to him anyway," Don pointed out.

"We didn't know he had it until two years later.  Xander, he'll fuss and fuss and fuss, but he'll never let us fuss and pay back all the fussing he does."

"Karma's a bitch," Don said bluntly.  "Even if you're doing good."  Danny nodded, he knew that firsthand.  "You'll get your chance."

"Maybe," he agreed quietly.  "Thanks, Don."

"Welcome.  Don't worry about Mac.  He's still brooding but if Xander had a point, he probably saw it.  Might not want to admit it but he saw it."  He glanced in there.  "Ah, he's got Stella in there and she looks pissed as hell."

"Lock the door on the way out, Don, please?"

"Sure."  He slid the lock over and walked out, letting it lock behind him.   Stella came out of the office.  "Don't even bother ta yell at Danny for his friend.  He didn't tell him to."

"I'm not.  Where is he?"

"Danny?  Locked in a lab so he don't have ta hear it right now.  Thinking about moving to DC."  He walked on, going back to his desk, relishing in just a small, tiny portion of his mind the hurt look on her face.  She did deserve it.  They both did.


Danny opened his door later that night, looking at Mac.  "Long think?" he asked dryly.

"Can I come in?" he asked quietly.  Danny got out of the way.  "He trained you well."

"This way I can say I didn't invite you when I shoot you," Danny told him.  Mac turned to look at him so he slammed the door.  "What?"

"He was right."

"I knew that already.  And?"

Mac sat down, looking at him.  "Danny, can we *talk*?"

"You are."

"You're mad, it's reasonable.  You're right to be mad at me.  I did treat you like I would one of my Marines, someone who had been trained and was comfortable with guns.   Even though you haven't qualified this year, you haven't taken the mandatory refresher course, and you haven't taken any ballistics seminars.  Even though I know you forget it at the office most nights."  Danny nodded then shrugged.  "It was wrong of me to expect you to behave in a way..."

"It was wrong of you to think I was the same sorta thug my family was," he said bluntly.

"It was.  I think your friend went a bit far when he threatened to have me eaten."

"Could've sicced Willow on you again."

"I think I'd rather be eaten," he joked.  Danny smirked at that.  "Is the other worse?"

"Depends on how bad of a mood she's in and all that.  She's a bit of an airhead."  He moved closer.  "So, we good or you still on your kick?"

He stood up.  "I know I expect a lot from you."

"Most times that doesn't bother me until you become an unreasonable ass, Mac."

Mac smiled.  "Thanks for that.  Maybe next time you should yell at me yourself instead of letting Xander be the little breakdown voice of yelling?"

Danny frowned.  "He does do that, doesn't he."  He shrugged.  "I'm sure Ry's boss'll be hearing from him soon too.  Bottom line it for me, Mac.  It's late and I haven't been sleeping well.  If I don't he's gonna narc on me to the others.  I just took something ta help me sleep," he said at the look he got.

"We're good, but I need you to requalify on the range," he said quietly.  "I need you to talk to me, Danny.  We're teammates."

"No, you're my boss, Mac."

"I...I want to be your friend too, Danny.  He was right.  If I was treating you like would one of my men back in my unit things would be different around the office."  He looked at him, seeing the confusion.  "Teams are supposed to be tighter.  I treat Stella like I did my men.  I should treat you the same way."  Danny nodded at that but let out a small yawn.  "Tomorrow, go requalify, come to tell me how it went.  If you don't, I'll suspend you to the lab until you can."  Danny nodded once.  "Then we're going to heal this rift.  It was uncomfortable but I had become a bureaucrat.  I need to be a commanding officer not a paper pusher. I used to hate commanders who did that."

"Yeah, well, it's not all the time."

"Then I'm not a lost cause," he agreed, smiling at him.  He got a small one back.  "Eat before you go to bed, Danny.  I don't want you passing out on me during our next case."  He gave him a pat on the arm.  "You can talk to me."

"Then we're really good?"

"We're really good," he agreed.  "You still have to qualify on the range."

"Sure.  I'll do that in the morning."

"Thank you."  He patted him again.  "Don't yell at him for it."

"Can't anyway," Danny said dryly.  "You talk to Gibbs again?"

"I did.  It seems we have this problem accepting that our people can be individuals and still serve."  He patted Danny on the cheek.  "Eat then sleep, Danny.  You're too skinny.  Even Stella's noticed and you know what that means."

"Xander mothers nearly as bad," he admitted dryly.

"With your luck they'll gang up on you," he teased.

Danny shuddered.  "Don't say that.  He'll get his daughter into it."  Mac laughed.  "Can I ask your opinion?"  Mac nodded.  "Xander won't let us mother him back.  He won't talk about anything that he's done in all the traveling and training he's done, Mac.  We heard two years later that he had Dengue Fever.  We heard he had to fight off a lion.  When he got his daughter he had to go take out some raiders in her village.  He always leaves it there though."

"Some people can't talk about those things, Danny.  I never could.  Does he have nightmares?"

"Xander's never slept long.  He started ta hunt when he was in tenth grade," he said, sitting down and getting comfortable.  "We heard about it, some.  Hell, I didn't even know he lost an eye until a few weeks later when he showed up for my graduation.  He said he didn't want to risk us so he didn't tell anyone.  I got to tell the others.  I think it's wrong.  Especially since he won't let us take care of him."

Mac considered it.  "How bad was his home life?"

"Bad enough one of the other guys' mom's refused to let him write her son."

"Then he's not used to leaning on anyone, Danny.  If you look at his former job, did they lean on him?"

"Yeah, that's why he quit," he agreed.  "Too much traveling, they weren't paying him a salary, just traveling expenses.  That's all he seemed to be doing."

Mac nodded.  "He's used to being the strength that everyone leans on but he's not used to having someone to lean on."

"He can with us though, he knows that."

"Think about Stella, Danny.  When she's hurt, what does she do?"

"Tough it out.  So they're a lot alike?"  Mac nodded.  "Fine.  Don thinks some day he'll have to."

"Life can be that way," he agreed gently.  "Especially when you're trained for combat and don't have a way to channel those instincts after you quit fighting.  That's why there's such a high suicide rate after coming home from a tour of duty.  You realize you don't know the regular and normal world anymore.  You start feeling lost and your old habits start to come back, all the things you thought you gave up."

"He's got a daughter, Mac."

"That's one anchor.  Plus he's got you guys."

"He won't tell us."

"Then check on him," he said bluntly.  "He's finally closer, Danny.  Be a nosy friend.  He could probably use it."

"He's about two miles up the road from Tony," he admitted.

"Good.  That'll help.  Then again, Tony will probably be asking Gibbs this same sort of question if he doesn't already know the answer. Being a cop's not much different in some ways."  He patted him on the shoulder.  "Xander will be fine.  Plan a long weekend soon and pop down on him."  Danny nodded at that.  "Good.  Just be there for him when he needs it, Danny.  That's all you can do.  That and be there for his daughter if he has a major PTSD episode during waking hours."

"He's never had those," Danny said quietly. "Nightmares but not the ones during the day."

Mac smiled. "Then he'll handle it.  Pop down, be a nosy friend, make him tell you.  It's all you can do.  I'll let you get some sleep."  He left.

Danny got up to lock the door, then laid on the couch to call down there. "Hey, Xander.  Yeah, I do wanna kick you but I wanna hug you too.  He did.  You got through to him."  He smiled.  "I still wanna kick your butt for it," he promised. "But I'm down to the playful stage of that."  He smirked.  "Good."  He yawned.  "I'm trying to.  I called you to ....  No, I don't need a bedtime story.  I was calling to see if you needed one."  He grinned.  "That'll work. Talk to you this weekend?  A good long one?  I'm not on Sunday.  Sure.  Oh, I've been ordered to take time off soon to come see you and Sai. Plus bring more pictures.  Don Flack thinks she's adorable.  Sure, sometime soon."  He chuckled.  "Good for her.  That's a smart girl we've got.  Sure.  We'll both nap.  Have a good nap, Xander.  Love you."  He hung up and curled up there, thinking about Xander.  Thinking about him held off his own nightmares most of the night.  He was a good fighter of them too.


Tony parked and got out of his car, walking up to Xander's door.  He heard noise in the garage and walked in there instead.  "I need help."

"Why?"  He looked at him.  "What happened?"

"I've got a kid holding Gibbs hostage."

"Okay.  So we need weapons, surveillance gear, or otherwise?"

"Gear."  Xander opened a cabinet on the wall, handing him a few things.  "Thanks, man.  I owe you."

"Welcome.  Come over for dinner.  I'm trying a new recipe and you can cuddle Sai all night to get rid of the nightmares."

"Sure.  Thanks, Xander."  He headed back out, going back to the situation.  He had been monitoring it.  They weren't that far away.   He handed what he had to McGee, getting a nod of appreciation.  "Use it however we need," he told him.

"I can do that."  He opened the case, smiling.  "A micro transmitter help any, Tony?"

"Yes!  It'll help us tell what's going on.  Find some way to slip it to him, McGee."  McGee did that while he fielded a call from the Director.


Gibbs looked around.  They were alone on the floor finishing their reports.  "Where did you get the transmitter?"

"It was laying around."

"Uh-huh."  He stood up and walked over to Tony's desk, tipping his face up.  "Tell the kid I said thank you."

"I will.  I'm going over for dinner and to hold Sai for a while."

"Want a beer before yo go?"

"I wouldn't mind," he admitted, finishing up and saving it down.  He grabbed his things and followed him down.  "Where do you wanna hit, boss?"

"I don't care."


"That'll work."  He got into his car, Tony got into his, and they drove there, settling into a back room to have the beer and talk.  "You did good."

"Thank you."

"Took some risks."

"I don't want to condemn a kid to death for wanting his mom, Gibbs.  Turns out he was right too."

"He was.  Thank you."

"Not a problem."  He sipped his beer, looking at him.  "Do you think....  Never mind."

Gibbs looked at him.  Then he tipped his head and smirked.  "You're right in what you're thinking."  Tony looked at him, his beer having to be taken from his hand.  "Cancel your dinner plans?"

"I can do that."  He called Xander.  "I hate to cancel..."  He smiled. "Thanks, man.  See you soon."  He hung up.  "He expected that."  He put his phone away.  "Dinner?"

"Dinner's good.  Takeout?"

"Sounds good to me."  He finished his beer and they got up, heading out to get something for dinner and then to Gibbs' house.


Gibbs walked into Xander's garage since the door was open.  "Hey."

Xander looked at him.  "I heard you pull in.  Your brakes need work."

"I know.  Tony needed to give this stuff back," he said, handing back the small case.

"Welcome.  Do I need to give you the extended 'I will find a sledgehammer and start with your toes, then move my way up slowly, with many water breaks so you feel a lot of agony' talk?"

"I'm not going to treat him badly."

"Good."  Sai looked out.  "You can come out.  I told you that."   Sai ran out to hug Gibbs, smiling at him.

"Hi."  He squatted down.  "I'm Gibbs.  I work with your Uncle Tony, Sai.  He's shown me your picture."

She stared at him.  "You're silly," she said, her accent still a bit thick.  "I'm not that little."

"I didn't think you were but I know you're just now starting to learn English."

"Daddy's very good at that," she said with a sweet smile.

"He is very good at that."  He kissed her on the forehead, earning another smile.  "Pretty soon you'll sound like the rest of us over here."  She hugged him again then ran over to climb up onto a stool and pounce her father from behind.  "She's good at that too."

"She is.  She's very good at pouncing."  He looked over his shoulder.  "Are you done playing?"

"Are you?" she asked with a smile.

"Give me ten minutes but you've got to get down since I'm soldering."  She let Gibbs put her back onto the stool.  "Thanks.  So why else are you over, Gibbs?"

"You're not going to dump him, right?"

Xander snorted.  "None of us are that petty, Gibbs.  We even loved Greg when he did drag a few times to try it out."

"That's good then.  Are the others due in soon?"

"That depends.  I think we'll have a small gathering around the holidays if possible, but probably not on."

"Then I'll plan on him coming over here."

"You're welcome.  You don't have to pretend with us, Gibbs.  Just watch out for the cooing."

"Thanks, kid."


"I heard you had to threaten Taylor."

"He was being a paper pusher instead of a commander.  He got the point too."

"Good.  Should we worry about Danny needing a job?"

"No.  They worked it out.  Danny's sleeping again and he finally kept down a meal.  It'll be fine."  He finished his soldering and picked up Sai, making her beam at him.  "Come on, let's do lunch.  Gibbs?"

"I'll help you make it."  He closed the garage door and they went inside.  "This is nice, a bit...girly but nice."

"Free furniture, Gibbs.  I can change stuff around later."

"That's reasonable I guess."  He took Sai to sit at the breakfast bar so they could watch Xander cook.  "You're good at that."

"I learned from a lot of the native women.  I still need a firepit out back."  Sai shook her head.  "No?"

"No, daddy.  Get a grill like Uncle Tony said.  Unclie Greg would giggle at a firepit."

"Maybe but he'd like my goat."

"Maybe but he'd still giggle."

"That's okay.  I'm used to Uncle Greg giggling at me.  He thinks I'm cute," he said with a grin.  He finished her lunch and handed over a plate, handing Gibbs a sandwich.  "Eat it or feed it to Tony."  Gibbs smiled, nodding and heading out.  He fixed his lunch and sat down beside her.  "Did you do your reading?"  She nodded.  "Good.  We'll go over that then math, then we'll have a good playtime in the park."  She ate faster, going to get her books for him.  "Some day you'll be smarter than Uncle Greg," he teased.

"That's really smart," she said, looking at him.  Then she said something in Thai.

"No, you won't have to wear the turban if you become smarter than him."  She snickered at that, letting him see her reading assignment.  He read over the section then her answers.  "Well, one thing's a bit off," he admitted, pulling her into his lap.  "This question is about this sentence," he said, pointing at it.  "See, it asks what he did before he had the cake."  She nodded, taking her pencil to erase the old answer and correct it.  "Great job!" he praised, giving her a cuddle.  She put down her math and he smiled down at her, kissing her on the head.  "Let's go over your math worksheet. We'll use it as a test."  He handed her the pencil and checked the clock.  "Try to do it all within twenty minutes."  She nodded and bent to do her worksheet, smiling when she got the first few and he patted her back.  She got done and looked at him.  He checked the clock.  "Good job.  Eighteen minutes."  He checked it over.  "Well, two wrong, same sort of problem though."  He went over it with her.  "Remember, good but right beats good but wrong."  She nodded, letting him mark her score.  "Good job anyway.  You only missed two.  Four months ago you wouldn't have been able to do that."  He put her down.  "Let's go hit playtime."  She ran to get her shoes and socks while he found shoes and the keys, plus his wallet.  Then they went to play in the park.


Greg looked at Danny, they were having a mini meeting in New York to talk about some mutual CSI problems Greg was having.  "Did you hear Tony's dating Gibbs?" he asked.

"I did.  They're cute.  Tony tries to protect him even more."  Danny smirked.  "That's gotta look like me tryin' ta protect Mac."

"Now and then you do try," Greg pointed out.   Danny dropped his beer bottle, staring at him.  "Just now made the connection?" he asked with a grin.  Danny whimpered.  "Yeah, kinda obvious.  We're all wondering about Ryan."

"I think that Eric guy," he said quietly.

"Not happening," Greg said, shaking his head.  "He's got other issues.  Now I can see him with Xander," he offered with a bright grin.

"If Xander would let any of us baby him," Danny countered.

"He would if we forced it."

"We'd have to catch him being sick.  We never hear about it until after it's over."

"True.  Then again, he's been sick this last week.  Sai called last night and said he's been having headaches and couldn't take her holiday shopping.  She wanted to make sure it wouldn't make us mad to get our cards late."

Danny frowned.  "He is?"

"He is."  He finished his beer.  "I was thinking about stopping down there on the way back.  We're due in next week and I'm off all the rest of this week anyway."

"Yeah, that doesn't sound like Xan," Danny agreed, finding his phone to call Miami.  "Ryan?  Greg and Danny.  Why is Xander having headaches?  Sai called Greggy and said that the cards would be late because Xander was having headaches."  He nodded.  "Sounds like we should.  No, I'll call Tony then call you back."  He hung up.  "I forget he's only a few minutes from him."  He dialed Tony's number.  "Hey, it's Greg and me.  What's wrong with Xander's headache?"  He listened to him complain.  "What do you mean Gibbs nearly got blown up and quit?"  Greg moaned, holding his head.  "Okay, from the top."  He listened, then nodded slowly.  "That's it, we're on our way down.  Sai called Greg to say the cards would be late, that Xan's been having headaches.  Yeah, we'll meet you there."  He hung up and called Ryan back.  "Tony don't know.  Gibbs got hurt and retired out of the blue so he's leading his team.  He hasn't seen him in a week.  Let's do that.  Meet you there."  He hung up and called Mac.  "Something's wrong with Xander.  I'm heading to DC.  I don't care, Mac!  Yeah, well, it's time to repay all the fussing.  Tough."  He hung up and stood up.  "Let me get a bag."  He got up and grabbed a few things, coming back while stuffing them in a bag.  "Okay, let's go."  They headed out together.


Sai opened the door at the knocking, looking at the man there.  "Hi, Uncle Tony," she said quietly.  "Come on in."  She let him in and checked then closed the door.  "No Uncle Gibbs?"

"No, he's in Mexico getting better."  He patted her on the head.  "Where's Xander?"

"Trying to cook in the kitchen."

"Trying to cook?"

"He's got another headache."

"Ah."  He walked that way, turning Xander around to look into his eye.  "Headaches?"  Xander nodded.  "Migraines?"



"Eye socket," he said quietly.  "That cloud last week.  I'm on antibiotics."

"Not good enough."  He called someone.   "Abby, can you come watch Sai for us?  Xander's got to go to the doctor's.  No, I'm taking him to the ER."

"I went last week."

"So?  It's clearly not working.  Ryan had to go through three courses of antibiotics, Xander.  If you have to you will."  He smiled at Abby's bouncy answer.  "Know where we are?  Thanks, dear."  He hung up. "Abby will be right over," he said calmly.  "Why didn't you call?"

"I'm on antibiotics."

"Did you think they might not work with some of the stuff you've seen and been exposed to overseas?"

"I told them that."

"Doesn't mean the doctor's not stupid."   He took the bottle of antibiotics, putting them into his pocket, walking him out.  "Hey, Sai, I'm having one of my best friends come babysit you for a while, okay?  Her name is Abby and you can bounce around with her."  She smiled.  "Have you met Abby?"  She nodded.  "When?"

"At the park.  She showed up.  Daddy invited her."

"That's cool."  Someone knocked so he answered the door.  "McGee?"

"I drove Abby.  Hi.  I'm Tim, I work with Tony.  Can I help Abby babysit you?"

Sai stared at him then shrugged.  "Can you help me with my math?"

"Sure," he agreed with a smile.  "I'm good at math."

"I'm learning bigger addition."  She squealed and pounced Abby.   "Hi again."

"Hi, sweetie, what's wrong?"

"Xander was apparently out during that cloud the other day and got an infection," Tony said grimly.  "We're going to the ER.  We'll be back as soon as we can.  If the guys from the picture in my bedroom show up, let them in.  She'll know.  Be good for them, Sai."

"Make him quit having headaches."

"I'll do my best, sweetie."  He walked him out to his car.  "If it doesn't heal, Xander, you could end up without sight," he said once they were inside.  "Then what would she do?"  Xander slumped.  "This is when you call us in.  We would've called you if we were in the cloud, much less if we were having headaches!"

"You're busy taking over the team.  You haven't made it home in days."

"Did you call me at home?"  Xander nodded.  "Why?"

"Because I started to have nose bleeds two days ago.  I called the ER and they said to keep taking it anyway."

"Bullshit."  He backed out and headed to his favorite ER.  He had visited most of them across the city in the course of working with Gibbs.  He walked Xander inside.  "He was in the cloud last week.  The other ER put him on antibiotics that made his nose bleed and is giving him migraines.  I think the infection's spreading."

The nurse wrote him down.  "It'll be a few minutes, gentlemen."

"Sure," Xander agreed.  "You might want to warn them I've got a glass eye.  It'll have to come out and I need some saline solution to do that."  She nodded, making note of that.  "Thank you."

"Welcome, sir.  Go in there and sit," she said, pointing.  He nodded, going that way when Tony gave him a nudge.  She called the head nurse.  "We've got a case from the cloud last week; he's on antibiotics but he's getting migraines and nose bleeds, plus he's got a glass eye."  She nodded, writing that down.  "That's fine.  He's waiting.   Young man with Agent DiNozzo.  Friends apparently."  She smiled.  "No, he's not in for himself."  She hung up and went to check in the next one.

A nurse came out to look at Xander.  "You're on antibiotics?"  Tony handed over the bottle.  "These are fairly strong."

"I've been on every continent but Antarctica in the last year," Xander told her.  "I had Dengue a few years back as well," he said quietly.

"Peace Corps?"

"Company business."

"That's fine.  Come with me so we can get a comprehensive history?"  Xander nodded, standing up, but he grabbed his head so Tony came with him.  "Do you want him to hear?"

"He'll spank me," he joked.

"Friends do that," Tony said grimly. "He never told me about some of them but I would like to hear.  I'm godfather to his daughter."

"It's up to him."

"I don't care," Xander promised.  "He'll hear somehow.  He's sneaky that way."

"Yes, he's snuck out a few times on us before," she said dryly, smirking at Tony.

"Not like I don't know what to do with a concussion," he countered, giving her a look.  She laughed and let them into a room.  "Okay, let's start way back when."  He pulled Xander's shirt off him.

She looked at the scars then at him.  "Gang?"

"Sunnydale.  That town that fell in out in Cali.  Then Cleveland.  I'm a former Watcher if you know any of us."

"I've treated one in the past."

"I'm the one they used to send out to train others."

"No wonder.  These bite marks?"  Xander looked at where she pointed.

"Lion?" Tony asked.

"Um, no.  Hyena.  The lion bite is the one on my right shoulder and the scratches on my back.  The hyena and I were communing on order of the shaman."  He turned to let her see.  "The ones down the center were some sort of little monkey thing in Thailand about four months ago."  He turned back around.  "Let's see, way back when.  Alchie parents, fighting back then.  Measles at six.  Chicken pox at ten.  Broken arm at seventeen."  She wrote those down.  "Lost my left eye at twenty-one.  I probably need to take it out.  The socket's swollen since I started on the antibiotics.  Since then I've been in Europe ten times, Africa for eight months once and then six other visits in various parts.  The longest was in the plains area.  I got dengue there.  Then I got a fever about ten months later in India while I was there.  Up-country, near the Pakistan border."  He rubbed his head.  "They didn't tell me what it was but it was a nice, hallucinatory fever.  Not like dengue.  I lost a good bit of weight, came home, got to rest for thirty whole days and then got sent to Thailand, then to Kyoto within a day, and then back to Thailand after handling the emergency in Kyoto.  I spent a month there fixing things, fixing the raider situation, and ended up with my daughter."  He looked at her.  "Then the cloud last week got me and I feel like shit.  My vision's really blurry.  I've had constant headaches this last week.  I had nosebleeds for two days.  And I feel like I'm going to hurl from the stink of the cleaner in here."

She kicked a trashcan closer.  "That'll fix that part.  Let me get some saline solution so we can remove the eye."  She went to get it and a dish, coming back with it and a set of forceps.  "Can you usually remove it yourself?"

"Hate to but yeah."  He worked it out, making Tony turn away looking very green at the sounds it made.  He finally got it out and into the dish, laying back down with a groan.  "I really don't feel good now."

She shined a light inside then nodded.  "I can see why.  It looks like some of the gas got back in there, sir.  Let me get an optic surgeon down here to look at that.  I think we found why the antibiotics aren't working."  She went to find the doctor so he could call, getting a nod and him calling someone.  She put the glass eye in a cleaner while they waited, checking on them a few times.  She heard Xander getting sick and brought him in some water.  "Okay?"

"Just sick.  It's been happening," he said grimly.  "My daughter thinks it's food poisoning."

"That's a good lie."  She left them alone, going to check on the surgeon.  He came in looking pissed.  "Sir, we have a young man who has traveled extensively, has a varied medical history, and was in the cloud last week.  His antibiotics have been making him sick, making his real eye blurry, giving him headaches, making him vomit, and making the empty socket swell.  I cleaned the eye after he removed it.  It's nasty in there.  The gas may've been trapped."

"Let's see him."  He took the forms.  "You weren't kidding.  What sort of fever did he have in India?"

"He said hallucinogenic but not like he had dengue.  He said they never told him.  He did lose weight after that."

"Charming.  Where did he work?"

"Watcher's Council."

The guy looked at her.  "Tell me you're kidding."

"No, sir."

He walked in there, looking at Xander.  "You don't look like the guy at the British consulate."

"I'm not," Xander said grimly.  "I'm from Sunnydale and the new Council.  We parted ways about four months ago, doc."  He waved a hand, opening his good eye.  "Can we please make me quit being so pukey?"

"Sure, kid."  He looked at the nurse and nodded.  She got him a shot to fix that.  "Let's look at this socket.  Does your eye fit?"

"Usually.  It's swollen right now."

"I can see that."  He carefully moved the lid, frowning.  "They didn't have you remove it after you got exposed?"

"Nope and I was more concerned about my daughter at the time."

"That's reasonable.  Is she all right?"

"Fine, bouncy, happy.  She hates the taste of her antibiotics but yay."

"Good."  He shined a light inside then nodded.  "You're right, the gas did get behind there.  The infection's spreading."

"The headaches and blurry vision?"

"Exactly.  It looks like it's effecting the rest of the optic nerve.  Why was it removed?"

"Sweaty demon's gross thumbnail."

"Popped?"  Xander nodded.  "That's probably all they could do.  Where was it done?"

"Sunnydale.  Days before it fell in."

"Then it's been a while."  He looked again.  "We need to clean this.  You're going to be on some serious antibiotics."

"We can help with his daughter," Tony promised.  "Is he looking at potential loss of sight?"

"He could if we can't get it stopped.  Then again, if it spreads into his brain, he's screwed to put it bluntly," the doctor told them.  "Boyfriend?"

"One of his best friends.  I drove him in."

"Yes that's something good.  No driving, young man."

"Xander.  You sound like Giles."

"Okay, Xander then."   He looked again then nodded.  "What antibiotic are you on?"  He was handed the bottle.  "That's what I'd usually give you."

"It made my nose bleed and my head hurt, plus makes me feel sick," Xander complained.

"Then let's change it to something else. You could be mildly allergic or it could be the infection."  He wrote out a new one and another one.  "This one as well.  Plus I want you to leave the glass eye out and wash it twice a day.  Can you do that on your own?"  Xander nodded.  "Good.  Now, I want you to see me in my office in a week, Xander.  I'll make sure my nurse knows."  He made a note into his PDA.  "There."  He handed over his card.  "One week."

"Yes, sir.  Can I still take care of my little girl?"

"I want you to rest as often as you can," he ordered gently.  "Let your friends help."

"Oh, we will be.  By now the two in New York will be landing.  The one from Miami will be up tonight."  He smiled at Xander.  "I'll be around as often as I can."

"You've been busy for a good reason," Xander reminded him patiently.

"Excuse me."  He smacked Xander on the head.  "Shut up.  You're more important to us than our jobs."

"Yes, Tony," he said weakly.  "Any other orders?"

"No more smacking him on the head," the doctor said dryly.  "Won't help the infection any and it might jar something wrong."

"Fine.  Can I spank him?"

"That's between you two," he said, giving him a look.  "I don't need to know those things."  He smiled at Xander, who was shaking his head, but still holding it.  "Get those filled today.  Start them as soon as you get them in your hand.  If you have problems with that antibiotic cocktail, call my office.  Make the appointment tomorrow.  I do hope you get better, Xander."   He walked out, making his notes on the chart.

Tony took the small case with the eye in it and the prescriptions, helping Xander up and out.  "Thank you, nurse."

"Welcome, Agent DiNozzo.  Take good care of your friend."  She waved a hand.

Tony ran into his boss outside.  "Sorry, my friend was caught in that cloud last week and the infection is getting worse, ma'am."

"How bad?"

Xander looked at her.  "They were talking about me losing all my vision and death," he said bluntly.  "Do you mind?  I don't feel like puking on people today."  She got out of the way in a hurry.  "Thanks.  Wobbling to the car, Tony."

"Sure, Xander."  He looked at his boss again.  "McGee drove Abby over so she could watch his daughter for me.  Also, we're off today."

"Are you going to need more time off?" she asked.

"Possibly.  That depends on how many of our other friends can help.  He's got a six-year- old daughter he's home schooling this year."

"Tell me what you need, Agent DiNozzo."

"I will when I know, ma'am."  He followed Xander, getting in to drive.  "We'll hit my pharmacy.  They know me there."

"How often did he get you hurt?"

"A lot."  He grinned.  "It happens."  They drove there and he gave them to the dropoff girl in the window.  "This is Xander," he said, pointing.

"Insurance, sir?"

"Private pay," Xander said, handing over his debit card.  She nodded and took them inside, coming back a minute later.  "Did it decline?"

"No, sir.  I need you to sign things."  He did that and took his card back.  "It'll be just a minute, sir."  She closed the window and went back inside, coming back with the bag.  "There you go.  I hope you feel better, sir."

"Me too.  Thank you."  Tony drove them on.  "I need to go grocery shopping tonight if you want to do that for me."

"We'll take Sai and the boys."

"You don't have to."

"Don't make me spank."


"Good!  It's your turn to be fussed over!  We would have when you lost your eye but I understand why you didn't call us.  Now we need you to let us fuss like you do over us.  If you complain you'll hurt our feelings."  Xander slumped down farther.  "Good.  Thank you.  Not like we weren't coming down soon for the holiday party."

"I was hoping it'd be better by then."

"You're going to be lucky if it's better by the next year, Xander.  He didn't look happy in the least."  He pulled back into the driveway, finding a rental car there.  "Someone's here."  He got out, walking around to help Xander out.  "Come on, let's go be fussed over.  Got the eye?"  Xander held it up.  "Good."  He walked him inside.  "Don't pounce, Sai.  The medicine was giving him a headache."

"They removed his eye?" she demanded, stamping a foot.  "They can't do that!"

"Sweetie, it's glass," Xander said, holding it up.  "They had to remove it.  Remember the gas cloud?"  She nodded.  "It got behind the fake eye I had and it caused a small infection.  So they changed the medicine and I need to rest a lot," he said, "but you've got nothing to worry about and the others are going to help."

"Okay.  I like Unclie Greg.  He's neat and cooing over Abby."  She looked at the eye.  "Eww."

"You're learning English very well, snookums," Danny said, coming over to pick her up and hug her.  "Though I agree, that's nasty, Xander."

"Could need cleaned but it needs to be kept moist," Xander said grimly.  "The infection set in behind it."

"We can handle that."  He took the eye in to Greg, who looked at it.

"I'm not an ME," he pointed out.

"Closer than I am," Danny complained.

"Small plastic box in the bathroom," Xander called.  "Saline solution in the medicine cabinet please."  Greg took it in there.

"Cool, a glass eye," Abby said when she saw it, following to help.  She came out, looking at Xander.  "Eyepatch?"

"I can get it," he mumbled.

"I can," she protested.

"It's in his underwear drawer with his skimpy panties, I found it once," Sai said happily.

"No wonder you didn't want me to peek," she teased, going to check those out.  She brought him his patch and he put it on.  "Good boy."  She patted him on the head.  "Tony, the director wanted a call."

"Saw her at the ER," Tony said dryly.  She rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen, going to fix lunch.  "Danny, can you please get him some water?  He's got pills to take."

"Sure."  He brought out a bottle.  "Someone needs to grocery shop."

"I was going to go out when my head quit hurting."

"We can do that," McGee promised.  "That's not a problem.  Abby likes to grocery shop."

"That's because she likes to play puppet theater with the veggies," Tony told him.

"It's cute," Abby protested.

"It is.  Sure, go ahead," Tony agreed.  He handed over Xander's wallet.  "Get stuff that's good for her too."

"Can I have more twinkies?" Sai asked Abby, beaming at her.

"Sure, we'll go together," she promised, going to grab Greg to go with them.  "Come on, cutie."  They walked out with Sai, going to go grocery shopping.

Danny leaned over where Xander was lying, looking into his good eye.  "You didn't call?"

"I got caught in the gas cloud last week and was on antibiotics."

"Uh-huh."  He patted him on the top of the head.  "Payback," he said with an evil grin.  He called Mac.  "Hey, it's me.  Xander's in seriously bad shape."

"I am not," he whined.

"You are, Xander.  The gas cloud you got caught in is possibly going to kill you."  He listened to Mac, walking off with his phone.  "Yeah, that bad, Mac.  You heard about the gas attack?  It got behind Xander's glass eye.  Yeah, he had it before I graduated, Mac.  He's done all that without one.  Seriously.  No, he's still fussing over being fussed over.  I know, I told him it was payback.  Yeah, I'm here.  No, Tony had that look like they said it could be fatal if not taken care of."

Tony came out to take the phone.  "It's in the optic nerve, Mac.  Tony.  Yeah, me.  It's swollen the free socket so much he almost couldn't take out his glass eye.  Two antibiotics and twice daily washes of the socket, plus an optic surgeon appointment in a week.  He said if it spreads more it's a brain infection," he said quietly.  "Sure."  He handed the phone back and walked off, calling Ryan.  "We need you.  It's dangerously close to a brain infection.  Remember hearing about the gas cloud?  He was in it.  It infected the empty socket, Ry.  Sure.  Horatio, Agent DiNozzo, NCIS.  Ryan's friend Tony, remember?"  He smiled.  "Yeah, we do.  Fairly soon.  Xander was caught in that gas cloud last week.  Some of it got behind his glass eye."  He heard the shudder.  "It's in his optic nerve and it's affecting his good eye," he said quietly.  "We need Ry up here.  Please.  Thank you.  When I can, man.  Well, there is his daughter," he pointed out.  "Thank you, Horatio."  He hung up.  "Ryan's on his way tonight.  He has to hand things over."  He walked back inside.  "Ryan's coming up.  Remember, he had to do a lot of this recently so he's better equipped to deal with eye issues."  He petted over Xander's head, getting a nod.  "Plus you can tell him how scared you are when you can't us or the little one."

Xander pulled him down. "You guys share her if something happens?"

"Of course.  Give her to Danny officially and we'll help when we can."  Xander nodded, pointing at his office.  "You did the will?"

"Yeah.  Gave her to Greg but Ryan or Danny were second."

"Sure."  He stroked over his hair again.  "Nap while it's quiet, Xan.  I'm here."  He nodded, falling asleep, curling up on his side.  Tony frowned, sitting next to him, looking at McGee.  "He good?"

"Yeah, I fixed the problem Sai said he had with his computer.  Hackers."

"Willow," he said dryly.

"She was using it to hack in and keep track of him."

"Doesn't surprise me.  You shoot her down?"

"Very."  He smirked.  "Need me?"

"Thanks, McGee."

"Welcome, Tony.  He makes you smile again."  He walked out, heading back to his own place.

Danny came in off the porch.  "What was he digging?"

"Probably a firepit," Tony said dryly.  "He wanted to make this roasted goat thing he learned how to cook."

"Uh-huh.  Sure."  He shook his head.  "Did you know she's great in math?"

"I didn't but he's been doing good with her," Tony assured him.  He looked back at Xander then at him.  "Are you worried about Abby warping Sai?"

"Probably," Danny agreed happily.  "She'll definitely learn more English."

"Oh, yeah."  He leaned his head back against Xander's thigh.  "Did he have any food?"

"Some burnt stuff.  Sai said he nearly fell down cooking last night so she got to help."

"Ryan's on his way," Tony said.  "Horatio's giving him the week."

"Hopefully it won't last much past that.  Mac gave me three days and then I can call if I need more."

"The director told me to tell her how long I need."

"Think she meant it?"

"I think she'll find some way to use it against me.  I'll be back as often as I can."

"Hey, you're filling in some huge shoes," Danny reminded him.  "It'll work, Tony."   He nodded.  "You want dinner?"

"If I know those two, they'll bring back something already done for tonight plus other food."

"Might be nice.  Want me to make some popcorn?"

"No, I'm good.  Thanks."  He rubbed his head against Xander's thigh.  Danny gave him a hug, getting a smile back.  "It'll go."

"We'll handle it," Danny agreed.  He went to look around the basement party area.  Xander had laid out some soft, fuzzy covered seats and couches.  There was a mini-fridge in the corner.  There was a good view out the windows.  There was a stereo and tv in a good spot.  They were going to have a lot of fun down here when Xander was better.  He went back upstairs to snoop.  Sai's room was a bit messy, it would drive Ryan insane.  Xander's room was just as messy, and would be driving Ryan even more insane.  He might be able to excuse the daughter but not the father. The office was an office with books no one should probably have in the open.  All the swords and weapons were guarded at least.  He walked into the guest room.  It was bland, white walls.  Plain bed.  Xander hadn't done anything with it.  Then again, Xander had white walls and a really well decorated bed.  They needed to help him finish decorating.  He came out when he heard the car, helping carry stuff in.  Sai ran for the bathroom and that was fine with him.  "It go okay?"

"It went fine.  One guy there said something about foreign babies and I snapped back until he walked off crying," Abby said proudly.

"I stood there and cheered," Greg said proudly.  He went to check on Sai. "You okay?"

"I'm fine.  I had to go tinkle."  She washed her hands and came out to help put things away, climbing up onto the counter to do that.  Though she did toss the first box of twinkies on the stove for their later use.  Along with the chex mix and the soda that she couldn't lift.  "Those usually go under the sink, except for the one in the fridgey."

"Sure," Abby agreed happily, putting some in there. Including the stuff Sai had wanted to try.  "Here, we got the stuff from the deli.  Get the others?"

"FOOD!" she yelled, shifting closer, opening the cabinet with the plates and glasses.

Abby hugged her.  "I'm so adopting you as my favorite niece."

Sai smiled.  "As long as you teach me more cool stuff."

"Not a problem, sweetie.  Now, let's get some food and feed the boys."

"Is Uncle Ry Ry here yet?" Sai called.

"Not yet.  Few hours," Danny said as he came in.  He took his plate from Abby.  "Thanks, Abby.  Hey, Sai, has he let you do anything with the garden?"

"We're looking at what to plant this spring, including some veggies," she said proudly.  "He'll help.  We've been preparing the ground around the fence with some top soil fertilizer.  I've been watching a lot of garden shows and the lady up the street helped me with some of the plans for the front yard."

"That'll be really neat," Abby agreed.  She lifted her down and gave her a plate and a wink.  "Sit so I can get you a drink."  She climbed up into her seat at the breakfast bar.  Abby got her a bottle of rootbeer.  Then she sat with her, looking at the gardening catalog sitting up there to point out flowers she knew went well in the area.

Xander woke up when Tony sat down again.  "Hungry?" Tony asked.

"Don't joke," Xander moaned, flipping over to face the back of the couch. "Wake me for bedtime."

"Sure."  He dug into his deli food.  It was good.  Abby had went to the good place.  Ryan appeared in a burst of light.  "New skills?"

"Willow was in Miami pumping me for information on Xander."  He dropped his bag and walked over.  "What happened?"  Tony drug him out back to tell him.  Ryan came back in and hefted Xander up, taking him to his bed.  Xander grumbled but Ryan cuddled in next to him.  "I'm here, Xander.  Cuddle me."  Xander cuddled in, head going onto his chest.  "Love you too, dear.  Let us handle it.  We'll make you feel all better."  He stroked over his back, smiling at Sai when she leaned in.  "Hi."

"Hi, Uncle Ry Ry."   She waved.  "Are you going to become my stepmommy?"

Ryan blinked then groaned.  "Go hit your Uncle Greg for me, okay?  Then we'll see about getting you a second parent."  She beamed and Greg yelped a minute after she disappeared.  Xander blinked at him.  "Sai just asked if I was going to be her stepmommy."

Xander kissed him on the cheek.  "I'm pulling out the pictures of Greggy as Matilda the Wicked."  He put his head back down.  "How did you get here so fast?"

"Willow was in Miami pumping me for information on you."

"I'm sorry.  We'll slay her later."  He closed his eyes and drifted off again.

Ryan went back to petting him, even when Abby and Sai brought him in some dinner.  "Thanks," he said quietly.  They hugged him then left, going to play outside.  She had been missing going outside while Xander had been sick.  He nibbled on his dinner but putting a piece under Xander's nose made him run for the bathroom.  "I remember that feeling.  It'll get better," he called.  "Then we'll make sure you gain back all the weight."  Xander came back and crawled back in beside him.  "Strawberry lamme?"


"Ah.  No wonder.  We'll finish decorating for you later, Xander."  Xander snorted but let himself fall back asleep.


Ryan walked into the office a week later, looking at Horatio.  "I've got an issue."

"Come tell me," Horatio offered.

Ryan walked in.  "Xander's getting better.  He won't lose his remaining vision.  It's a bit blurry, he'll need glasses they think.  It got into the optic nerve."  Horatio winced. "Exactly."  He looked at him.  "Sai's so sweet," he said quietly.  "I love Sai."

"Do you love Xander as well?" he asked.

"I don't know."  He sat down, then hopped up to pace.  "I know I miss them all..."

"You ache for not having him?" Horatio pressed.  Ryan swallowed and nodded.  "Do you want to transfer up there?"

"I don't like DC.  I like Miami.  I don't want to uproot her though."

"Is he willing to move?"

"He just got them settled.  Sai asked if she could come down soon.  She wants to live with me.  Xander was hesitant."

"Xander would be welcome," he assured him.  "We wouldn't care if you did marry and date Xander, Ryan."

"That's just one of the problems, Horatio.  I've known Xander since I was thirteen and he's the most isolationist of us.  There were times I couldn't tell what country he was in.  He never lets us know when he's hurt."  He stopped, looking at him.   "Eric will laugh his ass off."

"Eric will be handled," he promised.  He smiled.  "It wouldn't ruin your friendship but I would move slowly."

"I'm planning on it.  I don't want to ruin it, but I'm worried about my OCD and having a child, Horatio.  What happens if I have a snap fit and warp her or something."

"Ryan, she's from Thailand.  Didn't Xander tell you she was surprised not everyone had dirt floors?"  Ryan nodded, sitting down again, pouting slightly.  "You'll be *fine*."

"I nagged her all week to pick up her room."

"How did you tamp down your need to arrange things with Xander?"

"I cleaned his room."  He looked over.  "I started to clean hers but she shrieked and drove me out of her room.  Said it was hers and only she could clean it."  Horatio chuckled.  "She's a strong girl but I don't want to hurt her.  I wouldn't wish OCD on anyone."

"I know, Ryan.  You two will work that out.  Take it a bit slowly."

"I'm in Miami, he's in DC, and I don't have that much leave time," he complained.

"Xander's not doing anything, he can come down now and then to spend weeks with you."

"Point.  I don't know if he could or not.  Or if he would."  He went back to holding his head.  "The house had been on the market for two years, Horatio."

"Maybe Tony would consider buying it," he suggested.  "Or possibly there is the possibility that you might want to transfer up there."

Ryan looked at him. "I'd have to work with Abby."

"I know about Abby."

"She wanted to adopt Sai too."

"She was very sweet the one time I saw her."

Ryan held his head.  "I'm so screwed."

"That comes later," he teased.  Ryan turned bright red.  "Or maybe not."

"Not quite."  He looked at him.  "Though it was kind of tempting."  Calleigh walked in and he waved.  "Hi."

"Isn't your friend okay?"

"He's getting better but there was a small complication."

She stared at him then hugged him.  "It's cute that you're in love, Ryan.  You'll make a great boyfriend."  She let him go and smiled at Horatio.  "Frank's looking for you."

"I'll call him in a few.  Thank you."

"Welcome.  Is he coming down?"

Ryan shrugged.  "Not a clue."

"Okay.  We'll help you figure it out."  She patted him on the head then left.

"I'm going to be picked on," he moaned.

"You won't be," Horatio promised.  "I'll talk with Eric."

"Thank you."   He stood up.  "I don't know what I'll do yet, Horatio."

"See if Abby needs lab help."

"Not really but I could be a field agent.  NCIS is a combination of the two."

"That would be good for you," Horatio agreed.  Ryan smiled and nodded, leaving to go log in and think about his options.  Horatio smiled and called Eric to his office.  Eric leaned in.  "Do not pick on Mr. Wolfe about his present dilemma."

"Is he going to move up there?"

"He's not sure yet," he said honestly.

"I'll let him ask me questions and be a wall.  I don't pick on people who're that cute when they cuddle.  They get mean and sic that redhead on me again."  He walked off.  "Frank's looking for you."

Horatio called Frank.  "I heard you were looking for me?"


Xander looked up and squinted when someone tapped on the screen door.  "Who is it?"

"Director Sheppard."

Xander walked over there.  "What did you need, Director?  I'd let you in but we're treating the carpet for the fleas that came with the daughter's new pet."

"That's fine.  Can we speak?"  Xander nodded.  "In private?"

"The only house that's got people in it is across the street.  We're private.  What did you need?"

"Do you need Agent DiNozzo all the time now?"

"He's only over after shift because my vision's still too blurry to do things like drive."  She frowned.  "Sorry, but truth.  If your guys hadn't released that cloud accidentally on purpose I wouldn't be contemplating losing my sight."

"You are?"

"Not fully.  They said it'll get better."

"How are you supporting yourself?"

"Um, gee, let's see, I worked?" he said dryly.  "I retired when I got Sai."

"I see.  Are you romantically inclined toward my agent?"

"If I say yes would you quit getting wet panties over him?" he asked dryly.  She glared.  He glared back.  "I've faced down worse, lady.  Hell, I faced down worse than you in high school.  I dated her."  He gave her a look.  "Tony and I have been friends since he was thirteen and I was twelve."

"I see.  So no romantic interest?"

"I don't see as that's any of your business, Director.  Your agency goes by 'don't ask, don't tell', which you're violating, and I'm not one of yours.  Tony and the rest of us are all *very* close.  Have been for years.  The other four more than I have been thanks to the necessities of my life.  By the way, I'm joining the suit for the problem you had with the gas canisters.  Now, is there anything else?  If not, my daughter and I need to eat lunch and her cat's got an appointment at the vet's to be flea dipped."

"You don't have to be that way.  I don't care."

Xander stared at her.  He smirked and opened the door, pulling her head closer to his.  "Lady, listen to the words out of my mouth.  I have fought to save this world repeatedly.  I have saved the world by sacrificing lives, leading battles, and then losing a town without losing the people.  Then I went to train others to do the same thing," he hissed.  "Tony is sacred to my soul.  I would sacrifice the rest of the world to save those I consider family.  That is Tony and the other brothers and my daughter.  Are we clear?"  She nodded, looking a bit scared.  "Good.  If you want to set him up on some sex-pionage mission, talk to Tony, not me.  Going behind his back is one of the best ways to lose him.  Now, do you have anything else to ask?" he asked quietly.

He let her go when she shook her head.  "Good.  Have a better day, Director, and you might ask Gibbs.  He remembers me from breaking his wrist for not taking good care of Tony for us."  He closed the door and locked it.  He watched her go back to her car and get into the back, letting her driver take her back to the office.  He called Tony.  "Your director is either really stupid or really, really stupid.  Any idea which it is?"  He listened to him groan.  "She came here to ask me if we were together and if I was done with you.  I told her if she wanted to you use you for sex-pionage to ask you.  I also warned her that you were sacred to me.  Then I gave her Gibbs as a reference."  He laughed.  "Exactly.  No, vet's.  Sai found a kitty.  See you later."  He hung up.  "Sai, are the cat and you both ready to go to the vet's?"

"Yes, daddy.  She's in the carrying case."

"Good."   He called the cab and grabbed everything, putting on his shoes when they honked.  "Come on."  He took her hand, letting her have the wallet while he got the hissing cat.  "Shut up, kitty.  You need this if you're staying."  He walked her out, letting her lock the door.  "Thanks, Sai."  He got in.  "We're going to the Western Vet center."

Sai closed the door behind herself and hitched herself up, then set the cat down and buckled him in too.  "Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome, young lady."  He backed down, looking at the family.  "You okay, sir?"

"Eye infection," he said grimly.  "She's my seeing eye dog."

"So she's getting her own pet?" he asked with a grin for the girl.  "You're very helpful."

"I try very hard."  She waved at the peering neighbor and they were off.  She paid them when they got there, smiling at him.  "My math lesson for the day."

"You're going to be brilliant."  She beamed and got out, unbuckling her cat to take her inside while her father took his wallet back.  She waved and they went inside.  "Hi, this is my kitty, Precious."

"Hi, Precious.  What's the kitty's last name, sweetie?"


"Your daddy called when you found Precious."  She beamed and nodded.  "Okay.  Take Precious and your daddy and sit down in the seats, okay?  The vet will be right with you, sweetheart."  She did that and sat down, swinging her feet.  She went to tell the vet.  "We have the cutest little girl with her new stray, doctor."

"Precious?" he asked.  She nodded.  "That's fine.  Is her father in too?"

"He seems to have a sight problem."

"That's fine."  He walked out.  "Precious Harris?"  Sai hopped up and carefully carried in the cat, Xander following.  "There's a small step down into the doorway, sir."

"That's fine.  It's an eye infection," he assured him.  "I was outside during that gas escape."

"Oh.  I'm sorry."

"Me too.  Things are blurry."  He sat down again.  "It's her cat but I can tell you she's got fleas."

"A lot of fleas.  We can give you some medicine for that, the worms they can cause, and ear mites," he said, talking to them both since Sai was in her father's lap.  "But first, let's make sure she's healthy.  Some strays pick up bad diseases."

"Please," Xander agreed quietly.  The doctor drew some blood and went to analyze it.  He looked at her, making her look at him.  "Sai," he said quietly.

"We had a hunting dog in the village and he got mauled by something," she admitted quietly in Thai.  He gave her a squeeze.  "I'll be sad."

"If she's sick it's kinder to let her sleep instead of dying in pain," he said gently.  "But we will find you a healthy kitty, okay?"  She nodded.  "I'm sorry if she is sick."

"It's okay.  No one was taking care of her for us."  She looked at the doctor when he came back.  "Is Precious okay?"

"Precious is very healthy but she needs some shots."

"Go for it," Xander promised, tossing over his wallet.  "In there should be about three hundred.  That enough?"

"More than, sir.  She's also been fixed, so that's one thing we don't need to do."  He pulled things out of his pocket.  "Come here and watch me do this, Sai."  She came over.  "You put on the medicine for the fleas like this," he said, showing her how.  She nodded.  "It's done once a month."

"Okay.  I can do that.  What are ear mites?"

"They're little bugs, like fleas are, but they live in kitty ears," he explained.  "You shouldn't need this medicine again."  He put it down too.  "There we go.  Now, we've got to do some shots.  One of them takes three months to give her all of them, one a month."

"We can get more medicine for her fleas then?"

"You can or you can take some home."

"Whichever's easier today," Xander said.  "Back of the neck?"

"Yup.  Standard back of the neck."  He gave the cat her shots, then petted her.  "You'll also need to brush her."

"Bath?" Xander suggested.

"Definitely later to get rid of the dead fleas.  We can get you some good flea shampoo tonight.  I'd suggest wearing a long-sleeve shirt.  We can clip her claws for you too, no extra cost."

"Please.  They said I should be normal by the end of the month."

"That's fine."  He showed her how to clip claws the easy way, wrapping the kitty in a blanket.  "There you go, sweetie."  She smiled and put the cat back into the carrier, where she got hissed at.  "She'll be fine.  She doesn't like tight spaces."

"I don't blame her," Sai said happily.  "Thank you, doctor."

"You're welcome, Sai.  Now, Precious is probably somewhere between four and six years old.  There's some rules.  She could start feeling some joint pain about when you're a teenager."

She laid a hand on his.  "I'm from Thailand, a small village upcountry."

"Then you know about the life cycle?"  She nodded earnestly.  "Good girl.  Precious should live to be about fifteen or so, barring illnesses or accidents.  So you want to keep her inside from now on.  Right?"  She nodded.  "Good girl."  He patted her on the head.  "It'll be fine, dear.  You'll be a wonderful kitty mommy."

"Thank you."  She beamed and picked up her cat.  "We should go home, daddy."

"We can do that too.  Thank you, doctor."  He took his wallet and let her lead the way out.  He exchanged the wallet for the cat.  "Can you call us a cab too?"

"Of course, sir."  She did that while checking him out.  "They're fast today."  She handed them the receipt and change.  "Have a good day, dears."  Sai beamed and caught sight of the animals in the cage.  "They're up for adoption."

Xander squinted at them.  "That siamese is pretty, but kinda fluffy."

"It's a mix.  She's very pretty," she agreed.

Sai tugged on his hand. "We have a kitty."

"The kitty will get lonely," he said.  "Go ahead."  The nurse smiled and took the money for the adoption.  He took that one and they walked out together.  He let her get into the cab and give the address, sliding in after her.  He looked at her.  "You have the wallet right?"  She nodded.  "Good.  Thank you."  He closed the door and buckled them up.  "We're in."

"We'll be there in a few minutes, sir."  She backed out and took them home, the long way.

"Wow, that'll be my school next year," Sai said, smiling at it.  "If we don't move down to be next to Uncle Ry Ry."

Xander patted her on the head.  "That's by no means a problem you need to worry about."

"Yes, daddy."  Sai paid the driver and they got out with the kitties.  "Do they both need baths, daddy?"

"The new one shouldn't.  We'll have to make sure she doesn't get fleas."

Sai looked under her tail once she got her out of the box.  "He."  She watched the cats run and hide.  "How do you give a kitty a bath?"

"With a lot of scratching," he said dryly.  "I'll do that part.  They could hurt you."  She nodded.  "Go make a snack, put down kitty food."  She went to do that and came out with a bag of popcorn.  "Weren't you going to write your mother this week?"  She nodded, sitting at the breakfast bar to do that while he went to tort...bathe the cats.


Ryan smiled at the letter he got.  "Sai," he said happily.  "I didn't have time to read it at home."  He looked it over, then giggled.  "Xander got her kittens."

"Kittens plural?" Calleigh asked.

"She found one outside and they kept it since it's healthy but the vet was trying to adopt something that she calls a fluffy siamese kitty too.  And Xander was thinking about getting a bunny but she didn't want to be tempted to eat it.  We have kitty Precious, the stray, and kitty Brat, who is the fluffy one.  She did say Precious is fixed because Brat is a male.  Hence his name.  He likes to pounce her and Precious."  Calleigh giggled at that.  "She also said that Xander's sight is still blurry but she's been a good helper for him.  Even if he did joke she was his seeing eye dog recently.  Good thing I'm going back there this weekend."  He turned the page, smiling at the drawing.  "Aww."  He let her see it.  "She's very good and very into math."

"She sounds incredibly bright."  She handed back the drawing.  "That's great for six."

"Abby, Tony's lab tech, was babysitting her when Xander went to his first eye appointment.  She asked where her coloring books were.  She led Abby back to her room to her three shelves of coloring books."

"Aww.  He takes good care of her."

"Very."  He folded it back up and put it into his pocket.  "I miss her."

"You're going back this weekend," she reminded him.

He nodded.  "Yeah.  I don't know what we're doing yet."

"Do you want to move to DC, be near Tony and closer to Danny and Greg, or do you want them to move down here with you?"

"I want to be with them.  I don't care how."  He put his head down.  "I'm screwed up."

"No, that's some other time," she giggled.  He gave her a look.  "It is."

"It definitely is but Xander wanted to wait until he could see again."

"That's one romantic idea," she said.  She patted him on the head.  "It'll be okay.  I promise it will."  She got up.  "Come on.  We're about out of time."  He finished his lunch quickly and followed.


Xander looked at his eye doctor.  "I'm going to need the big, thick, geek glasses, aren't I?"

The doctor nodded.  "Probably.  It's better than it was last week, Xander.  It could continue to get better."

"I hope so."  He sat up.  "Now what?  More antibiotics?"

"We could try another week, see if it helps.  I do want to get you into glasses very shortly.   You should be able to drive and do those things."

Xander nodded slowly.  "Do we have a recommendation for me?"

"I do.  I have a partner I send people to across the hall.  He's got an appointment waiting on you in an hour."  Xander grimaced but nodded.  He smiled.  "I didn't think you'd want to wait."

"No, not really."  He stretched as he stood up.  "Do you want the antibiotics?"

"I think it'd be useful."  Xander nodded at that.  "It'll also make sure that there's no remaining infection or that it won't come back."  That got a soft sigh.  "It'll be fine."

"I hope so.  So, did the lawyer contact you?"  He nodded.  "Is he pissed?"


"Good."  He smiled.  "Because they endangered my daughter's life.  I'm the original bastard when it comes to my little girl.  I am also the world's biggest vindictive bastard."

"I like that attitude."  He clapped him on the back.  "Go across the hall with Sai.  You can get hers checked in a few days.  I'll call the refill into your pharmacy."  Xander nodded, taking a copy of his folder out.  He paid the receptionist.

Sai came over.  "Are we done?"

"No, I've got to go across the hall to get glasses."


"We'll make sure yours are okay in a few days."

"Will I need pills?"

"No.  Not hardly."  He patted her on the head and took the slip, walking her across the hall with her coloring book and crayons.  "Hi," he said grimly.

The receptionist over there took the folder from him.  "Mr. Harris, we've been expecting you.  Is there anything we should know?"

"One's glass."

"Okay, I'll make a note of that."  She made a note on their forms and gave him something to fill out.  "Do that for us.  The doctor's running a bit early so it shouldn't take that long."  She went to hand the doctor the file.

Xander sat down to fill out the paper, squinting and holding it out at arm's length.  Sai took it and filled in what she knew.  "All...allergies?" she asked, smiling at him.

"That is excellent, Sai," he praised.  "No, I don't have any allergies."

She wrote 'no' in that box.  "Hmm.  Car?"

"We're driving a Ford.  Not today or possibly tomorrow but I'm told once I get glasses I can do that again."  She beamed at that and wrote in the answer.

"Race?  Are they expecting you to run?"

He smiled and gave her a cuddle.  "No, that's asking what color I am.  Put in white."

"There's check boxes with big words."

"Check the one that says white," he said, spelling it out, "or starts with cauc."

"There's white, his...."

"Non-hispanic.  Hispanic people are people from Mexico, Cuba, and Central or South American."

"Oh.  Like Unle Ry Ry's coworker Eric?"

"Yup, he told you he was.  His momma's from Cuba so that makes him partially Hispanic."

"Then what am I?"

"Asian.  Thailand is on the Asian continent so they count you that way."

"Oh.  That's kinda stupid."

"That's one of those complex issues that you'll get into when you're older.  It's a question that some people don't like and some don't mind, but it's one of those complicated things."

"Sure.  Third grade?"

"Probably junior high, but you can ask Uncle Greggy if you want."

"I can do that."  She smiled and went back to the form.  "Age?"

"Twenty-seven."  She wrote that in.  "If the next one says sex, check the M box.  That's asking if I'm a boy or a girl."

"It is."  She checked that box.  "Hmm.  Mari.. Martial?"

"Marital.  Married or not.  Check single."  He heard her do that.  "What's the next question?"

"One with a long box.  Why are you here today?"

"Put in referral," he spelled it, "due to gas attack."  He saw her write slowly.  "Good job.  Any others?"

"There's a box with a big 'x' after a lot of small, yet very long words."

"I'll read that later," Xander promised, kissing her on the head.  "You are very helpful and you deserve a great treat."

"Can we see Uncle Ry Ry?"

"He'll be up later tonight."

"Yippee!"  She got up to dance around.  She even danced like a mini him, he was so proud of his girl.

Xander heard the laugh and smiled at the receptionist.  "One of her favorite uncles.  Ready?"  She made an assenting noise.  "Okay, Sai.  You know the drill.  Color for me and when I'm done in a few minutes you can help me pick out glasses that won't make me look like a dork."

"What's a dork?"

"You remember the movie Uncle Greggy let you watch?"  She nodded.  "Them."  He got up.  "Color and be a good girl for me please."

"Yes, daddy."  She settled in to color some more.

Xander walked into the back.  "At least you don't have to do all the tests," he quipped.

"No, we can go right to the main event," she assured him, letting him into the exam room.  "I'll keep an eye on her."

"She should be good.  She's been across the hall every few days."

"What happened?"

"Remember that gas attack," he said grimly.  She shuddered.  "Some got behind my glass eye and created an infection in the optic nerve, back to where they joined and across my sinus cavity."

"Ow," she hissed.  "Okay, that's a good reason.  The doctor's just up the hall finishing his lunch.  Let him brush his teeth and he'll be right in."  She gave him a pat once he was seated, going to talk to him.  "Were you briefed about what happened?"

"Oh yes," he agreed grimly. "I've seen all his test results."

"He couldn't read the form.  His daughter filled it out."

"That's reasonable with the infection he had."  He brushed his teeth and walked up the hall.  "Hi, Mr. Harris.  I've heard a lot of good things from my golfing partner about you and your daughter."

"She's been a rock," he agreed.  "If it weren't for here I'd probably be dead."

"It's good that you love her.  Now, I've been told the left is glass?"  Xander nodded.  "Then let's check the right one.  Are you still on antibiotics?"

"One last week to make sure the infection is gone and doesn't come back.  It's *really* blurry."

"I know.  Let's see what we can do."  He pulled over the large testing mask, starting off.  "Okay, what can you read on the chart on the wall?"

Xander suppressed the sob.   "Nothing."  He adjusted it.  "The second line?  B E C D?"

He looked then at him.  "Okay, let's try something else.  Is there anything else I should know?"

"A lot of former concussions.  A long history of working at night instead of during the day, or doing construction without sunglasses in southern California."

"Then let's change a few things."  He did that and Xander relaxed.  "A bit better?"

"I can guess at line five."

"Don't guess.  I need to know what you can see clearly.  When was the last time you were checked for glasses?"

"Eight grade when they pulled us out of science class and used the little machine."

"Long past time," he agreed.  He adjusted the lenses.  "Okay, now what?"


"Good.  How much of that was a guess?"

"The last three, it kinda fades."

"As it should."  He adjusted something.  "Is that better?"  Xander nodded.  "How about now?"  He shook his head.  "One, or two," he said, flipping something.

"Neither, they're both blurry."

Ten minutes later he walked Xander out and they gathered Sai.  "Come on, dear.  Let's pick your daddy out some glasses."  She cleaned up and followed after him.  "Do you have a top limit?"

"I'd like to not go broke.  I've got about ninety at the moment on me and I've got my debit card."

"Good.  That gives us a limit.  Plastic or metal?"

"Long lasting."

"Metal it is."  He showed Sai a few styles.  "How about this one?"

"Is this like Uncle Tony said about trying on shoes?"

The doctor smiled and nodded.  "A little bit."

"Tony's in the middle of a case.  Don't even think about it," Xander told her.

She giggled.  "I won't.  What about taking pictures for Uncle Greggy?"

"Nope.  He'll make me look dumber on purpose."

"How about Auntie Abby?"

"She's working, dear.  Everyone but Uncle Greg and Uncle Ryan are working.  He should be on a plane.  How long before they're ready?"

"A day."  He moved a magnifying mirror over so he could see.  He ended up with a pair of thin black metal frames.  They were rated to not break and snap back into shape.  Expensive but necessary in his life.  They checked and got them going while he waited, since he only needed the one lense.  The other could be plain glass.  He also chose to have them with the lenses that turned into sunglasses in the light.  That would help a lot.   So they waited two hours in the waiting room and they were done.  He walked back there to get them fitted, not minding *too* much how they looked.  "Not bad," the doctor offered.

"Thanks, doc.  Oh, lawyer will be calling.  I'm suing the stupid people."

"I understand and I'd skin them first."  He patted him on the back.  "Did you pay?"  Xander nodded.  "Good man.  I want you back here in six months or sooner if they start to look blurry."

"Yes, doc.  Thanks."  He walked out, helping her gather up her things.  "C'mon.  We'll get an ice cream cone while we wait on the cab."  She smiled and took his hand, putting things into her backpack.  "You have been such a big help.  What do you want as a treat?"

"Uncle Greg said there was a theme park nearby," she said, looking at him.

He smiled.  "I can see that happening."  He ruffled her hair, making her huff and put it back.  "Sorry.  I know you've been taught girl things by Abby and Greggy."  He got her the ice cream cone and into the cab.  By the time they got back there Ryan was waiting on them.  "Hi," he said with a shy grin.

"Hi."  He gave him a hug.  "Not too dorky."

"When did you get here?  If we had known we'd have brought you so you could tell Daddy whether or not the other styles were better.  I can't tell dorky yet," Sai told him.

"Those are probably the best of the lot," Ryan said with a grin.  "Go write Uncle Tony an email?  Let him know I'm here and that I'm taking you two out to dinner."

"Daddy said we might be able to go to a theme park this weekend."

"There's one about an hour away," he agreed.  "Because you have been an excellent girl and very helpful for your daddy."  She beamed and went to the office to write Tony an email.  He took a kiss.  "There is no need to be shy."

"I can see, but I've got another week of antibiotics."

"We'll pick them up before dinner."  He took another kiss. "Heard anything from the lawyers?"

"Not yet.  I did hear some from the other side.  They tried to say it was my fault for being outside.  I pointed out buying my daughter a new pair of shoes wasn't unreasonable, it was logical, and protocol stated they should have moved that on the highway because infecting cars was a lot harder than infecting little kids and me.  The colonel was not amused."

Ryan smiled.  "I'm sure he wasn't.  What did the director want?"

"Tony to sex someone for information apparently.  She came to see if we were in a relationship.  I told her to see Gibbs about how sacred you guys are to my soul."

Ryan kissed him again.  "That's a mushy thing," he teased.  Xander shrugged.  "How well do you see?"

"Almost perfectly like before.  More than good enough to drive."

"I'll drive this weekend."

"I'm not the femme one," he reminded him.

"I know.  That's Greg."  Xander cracked up and pinched him on the side.  "Hey!"  He got him back and it devolved into a tickling and rolling around fight.

Sai sighed and went back to the computer, writing her uncle that they were rolling around playing with each other.  That she was hiding in the office for now.


McGee opened up Tony's email, coughing.  "There's another one from your niece, Tony."  He burst out laughing.  "Um, I think Ryan's happy."

Tony looked over at his email then at him.  "Most likely it's a tickle fight.  They're like that.  We all know we're not allowed to do more than kiss, cuddle, and hold hands in front of her."

Ziva looked at him.  "That man's daughter?"

"Yes, Xander's daughter."

"Why did she write you an email?"

"They just got back from the doctor's again and Ryan was up to visit.  She told me they're going to dinner and that they were rolling around playing."

"Oh.  How have they handled the gas attack?"

"Sai has been instrumental in keeping Xander from going off the deep end when it nearly blinded him," Tony said firmly, staring her down.  "You can tell the director I said that since she authorized them to use city streets instead of the highway this time."

Ziva swallowed.  "The others weren't hurt that badly."

"Xander has a glass eye, it got into the optic nerve," he said grimly.  "It nearly killed him.  The man I consider as close as my brother."  She shuddered but nodded.  "Now, what do you have on the case?"

"Nothing," she admitted.


"Not a whole lot, Tony.  I know who he wasn't, which is who he was pretending to be."

"That's a start.  What parts were false?"

"His work history, his social security number, his name.  Everything."

"Okay, do we have a lead from Abby?" he asked firmly.

"She's working on fingerprints.  Last I knew there weren't any hits.  I can go check."  He went to do that and share what the girl had said.  It was cute.


Greg looked at his phone when it beeped, watching the picture download.  He smiled and showed Nick, who he was working with.  "That's Xander and Sai, his daughter."

He looked and smiled.  "She's adorable."

"She is.  They made him get some glasses apparently but they look okay."  He got back to work once his phone was in his pocket.  "It's adorable."

"She was."

"Xander is too," Greg assured him.  "He's getting used to the daddy thing."

"Is he her natural dad?"

"Adoptive.  He was saving a village in upper Thailand when most of them were taken by raiders.  Xander saved the village but Sai's mom wanted her safe.  Xander agreed to adopt her since they had bonded while he was fixing the well and culverts."

"Wow.  It's gone through the system?"

"Yeah, within weeks.  He takes her to cultural events.  She's going to be multi-lingual.  She thinks it's cute Xander swears in Latin when he bangs his thumb."  Nick smiled at that, shaking his head as he got back to work.  "She's been the only thing that kept him around when it happened.  He might've given up."

"How bad was it?"

"They weren't sure the infection wasn't going into his brain.  He's still on antibiotics."

"What happened to him?"

"He was out buying Sai new shoes when that gas leak happened in DC," he said bitterly.   "Our friend Tony works for the agency but even he's behind Xander suing them all and the director personally for authorizing them to use that route when it was so dangerous.  I'm all for firing a grenade up her ass."

"How bad is it?" Nick asked quietly.

"Xander could've been blind.  He didn't need glasses before this.  He had near perfect vision in his eye."


"Yeah, he had one popped during an attack a few years after high school.  Right before Danny graduated.  He's from that town in California that fell in."

"How did you two meet?"

Greg grinned.  "Summer camp.  We were the ones who were smart, a bit artistic, and didn't fit in.  They stuck the five of us together to manage the chaos and mayhem we were causing."

"Wow.  You've been friends with them since you were kids?"

"I had just turned thirteen.  Xander was twelve.  The others were all thirteen."

"I'm impressed you guys stayed in touch."

"It was hard but we needed each other.  In our own ways, we've each had to fight against some serious stereotypes, people trying to make us fit into a mold that was created for someone opposite to us.  We helped each other through some really bad shit."

"So you guys were the ungolden boys?" Nick asked.

"Yeah, basically, we were," Greg agreed, smiling at him.  "The Ungolden Quintuplet of Terror."  He smiled and capped his present sample, marking it down.

The End.