Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs looked up at the man walking to his desk, giving him a small smirk. "Another case?"
"A troubling incident more like." He handed over the file. "The local Naval base and Bethesda medical center have both been inundated with people missing blood and having hallucinations. Now, those hallucinations look a lot like some classified files we got off the Pentagon, who aren't saying why they have them but I thought they felt like they were blushing a bit. You'll notice in the Pentagon file that a few names are listed and I cross- checked our system to see if we've ever had to deal with them. It seems your team has. I'd like to know how to stop this. Quietly."
Gibbs looked in the folder, then frowned. "McGee!" he snapped. He jumped up as if shocked on the ass with a taser. "Harris, Alexander? Where do I remember him from?"
"Um, I think that's the case that we did in Santa Clara, Boss. The embezzler, child molester, arms dealer?" Gibbs frowned for a moment. "The one that made Tony go out and declare his tastes quite loudly, Boss."
"Oh, that one. Fine. Thank you." He looked at his former boss. "What makes you think that kid know about this stuff?"
"He eliminated the project the Pentagon isn't admitting they ever ran," he said dryly. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Figure it out. If he doesn't know, use him as a reference and source to get closer. We need this stopped."
"Yes, sir." He looked around. "DiNozzo!" he bellowed. He came out of the bathroom, wiping his hands off. "Find them, bring them here. Take McGee since I remember he and Ziva had words."
Tony looked at the folder, then at him. "Gibbs," he moaned, "no! Please no! Pretty please no?" he offered at the harsh look. "I can't put up with Harris, Boss!"
"Tough, do it. We've had some random attacks and someone higher up thinks he can solve them."
"I'm not sure giving sailors crossbows is a good idea. Are you?" Gibbs glared again. "Yes, Boss." He sat down at his desk, trying to find him. "Hell. He's bartending. Boss, we can't pick him up until later. He doesn't have any local records except a W-4 filed just the other day." He looked at him. "Do you want me to wait or go annoy the club's personnel to find him?"
"Go later. That way we can keep this quieter. Bring him back here once everyone's gone home for the day."
"For now, find the reports mentioned in the files and give me a rundown of what we're looking at so you can give it to him later."
"Yes, Boss," he said, a lot less cheerfully. He didn't want to deal with strange stuff! He was still jumping at Abby now and then when she acted like that kid did. "Can I at least deck him if he calls me Pretty Boy again?" he asked as Gibbs walked past him.
"Not unless he's doing the attacks," Gibbs said firmly.
"Damn." He got back to work, glaring at Ziva when she came in. "Why couldn't you get along with Harris?"
"The construction guy that you nearly decked for not being able to help you do something," McGee offered. "The boss wants him questioned on how to prevent some attacks going on." He looked at him. "I can go pick him up if you want, Tony. You can wait in the car."
Tony looked at him and shook his head. "He's working in a biker bar, Probie. Get real." McGee looked horrified. "Yeah, so, we're both going in. Just be polite. They don't really want to hurt you, just scare you a bit." He got back to work, finding all the reports mentioned. Plus a few more when he cross-referenced. They broke down into three claims: attacks and blood letting, attacks and cutting injuries or severe bruising, and hallucinations of strange creatures. Some of the creatures were the same but most weren't. He listed them by type and location, getting a small pattern on location. That helped some. When his boss stopped in front of his desk again, he printed it off and handed it to him. "There's a small, subtle pattern of location of attacks," he offered seriously. "Especially those with the blood letting and cutting. The hallucinations have a few outside the area but that could be a spreading influence. You notice where and when it started?"
"That gas cloud on the Mall," he noted, looking at him. "You think it's related?"
"From what they were saying, yeah, I do, Boss. They said someone opened something. I'm guessing that something is pulling them maybe? Do we have files on that project the Pentagon doesn't think exists? All I found were some internet conspiracy sites."
Gibbs sighed and handed over something that he had been handed in the garage when he ran out for coffee. "It has some records. He said look at the web address in there, it's the truth, one of the doctors involved put it up." He walked back to his desk, sitting down again. "McGee. Reports from the last case? Lacking spelling." He threw it at him. "Correct it and try again."
"Yes, Boss." He pulled it up and did a spell check first, then settled in to proofread.
"David," Gibbs called, making her look up and he tossed over her report. "I know English isn't your first language, have someone proofread it for you. I marked six paragraphs that make *no* sense." She nodded, opening it to fix hers. "DiNozzo. For once, you only needed grammatical help."
"Sorry, Boss. Which would you rather I do? Make mistakes or do this new case?"
"Do the new case. At least yours was readable, even if it does read like Yoda now and then." Tony winced. Gibbs sipped his coffee, accepting the reports as they came in. He glanced at Tony at the utter silence. "Problems, DiNozzo?"
"Inhuman torture and murder," he said quietly. "That we sponsored." He looked at his boss, then got up and typed in the web address on his computer, letting him see it while he leaned over his shoulder and selected a link to show a video of what they were doing. "That's not right, Boss. They're partially Marines and partially Army from what the site says. Do we go after them too?" he asked quietly. "This'll get messy in court but I want to hit someone for that stuff."
Gibbs watched the video, shuddering at some of what they were doing. He finally had to turn it off when they began to test electrical stimulus on deskinned portions of the creature's anatomy. "I'll check on that," he said seriously. "From what I'm told, Harris and his friends there took them down already. Some may have already paid."
"Not enough. There's nothing in Hell that bad," he retorted. "We *gave them orders* to do that!" he said, looking disturbed. "They did that and enjoyed it!"
Gibbs nodded. "I'm wondering why. I'll try to get a more comprehensive file when I ask if we're going after them. Ask Harris if he or his group have any." He nodded. "When are you going?"
"It's a biker bar, I figure just after dinner, Boss." He sat down again, looking at him. "I've already told McGee to be very polite and try to be calm and collected and not scared."
"Good. I'll be on my way home for dinner with any luck at that time, which is nearby. Call if you're in danger."
"Yes, Boss," McGee seconded. "Is it that bad? Should I change to fit in?"
"You ever ridden a motorcycle, McGee?" He slowly shook his head. "They'll know. Don't change. Just be very polite."
Tony looked at the bouncer, pulling out his ID to show him. "I'm Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS. We need to speak to Harris? I'm told he's bartending here. Is he in yet?"
"He's behind the bar cleaning glasses. Is there a problem? I didn't know he was a vet."
"We think he has information on a recent attack because it's something we've ran into before around him," McGee noted calmly. He had taken a valium to be this calm, but he was okay now. Even if the bouncer was twice his size in all directions.
"We're not that scary, kid," he said with a smirk. He opened the door. "Harris! Visitors!"
"Send 'em in. I can wash dishes and talk," he called back. A few voices laughed. "Yes, I am multi-talented, I don't just kick ass with a pool cue," he yelled. Tony walked in and he smirked a bit. "Agents Pretty Boy and Fluffy! Wonderful! Boss, I think my *other* job just came calling!" he yelled. He waved them over and they came over to stand in front of him. "What happened now? More Marines shooting at gas clouds?"
Tony took the towel and wiped off the bar, then laid out the graphs he had made. He pointed at the purple dots. "Attacks with blood letting." The green dots. "Attacks with severe beatings or cutting marks." The red dots. "Hallucinations of strange creatures." Xander frowned, looking at it. "We were told to come talk to you since the Pentagon released a small amount of information about a project you helped disband. And I'd personally like to thank you for that after seeing a webpage online with some video," he finished quietly.
Xander looked at him, being very serious. "You're welcome. Let's go back to your base and we'll see what I can help you with. I've got to stop in on Willow and get some information from there and the training manual." Tony nodded. "Sorry, Boss, I was right. Gotta go, I may be back tonight!" he yelled, handing him back the forms. "Wait for me outside, you can follow me there since I don't have a trunk." He walked into the back room, talking with a skinny, extremely dark skinned guy with blue hair, getting a nod. Then he grabbed a jacket and followed them outside, going to get his bike. He caught Tony's look and grinned a bit. "What can I say, it's nice and makes me happy." He got on and put on his helmet. "Follow me. It's not far." He started his engine and sped off, taking the curves a bit sharply, but he was relaxing himself for a probable fight later. This was not of the good. He parked outside Willow's house, nodding at the kid on the stoop. "I'll be right back, smack whoever touches it for me, Rais." He jogged up the stairs, pounding on the front door. Willow came out of her apartment and let him in. "The local naval base has been attacked by things that bite, chew, and scratch. Someone found a hint of the Initiative and came asking."
"Sure. Can you carry them on the bike?" she asked, leading him back into the apartment. She noticed he had a shadow and looked at him. "Who're you?"
"Special Agent Tony DiNozzo." He smiled at her. "I'm over this case at the moment."
"He's the one I kept calling Pretty Boy when I met him in Santa Clara," Xander told her.
"Oh! Okay. Then you probably need a hunting manual too." She headed for a closet and pulled out a few boxes, and a CD carrier, flipping through it. Two discs were removed and then it was tossed into the top of one of the boxes. "There ya go. Identification and hunting manuals are in the CD carrier. The rest is the Initiative files we were able to liberate before and after the assaults."
Tony blinked. "Before and *after*?"
"We wanted to make sure they were truly closed and we were safe," Willow told him quietly. "I hack." He just nodded once and grabbed the top box, letting Xander get the other one. "We'd like those back."
"If at all humanly possible. We like normal crimes," Tony assured her. "Thank you, ma'am." He smiled at her shudder. "Just being polite."
"I'm still not that old," she pouted.
"Wills," Xander said, kissing her on the cheek. He took the papers from Tony's back pocket and handed them over. "Here, collate and confirm for me. I've got my cell. He can give you an email address later." She nodded, going back to her computer to do that while he grabbed the other box. "Where's the third one?"
"Storage. I'll have Giles send it and check the books for anything related to his new hellmouth."
"Thanks, dear." He walked out, letting her get the door behind him. He walked past the kid. "Did you have to smack the other fed?" he teased.
"He's napping. I'm thinking he's stoned." He grinned at Xander. "Can I still have that ride if my momma agrees?"
"Sure. Next time you see me in the daylight." He grinned. "That'll probably be Sunday afternoon. Wills promised to help me buy a new jacket for winter." The kid just grinned and nodded at that. "Say hi for me." He handed over the other box. "There's a third one but it's still back in Sunnydale," he said quietly. "She'll have it shipped if we need it."
"Thank you. Follow us, unless you know where the office is?"
"I think so. If not, I'll call." He headed for his bike, pausing to let a car go down the street. "I don't like the Feebs," he said loudly. The kid on the stoop giggled and smiled. "I don't! They're annoying! Watch my place too." The kid nodded so he got back onto his bike and put on his helmet, turning over his ignition so he could head back to their headquarters. He had scoped it out to see if he could continue to tease his playmate. He remembered playing with Pretty Boy very fondly. He found the visitor parking again and parked carefully, then took off his helmet and checked around. "They've got to have a parking garage or something," he muttered. He armed his special security system then smiled at the guard. "Agent DiNozzo asked me to stop by to help with a case? Which door do I use?"
"The blue ones, sir. Is that armed?"
"Only my taser security system. I wouldn't touch my bike." The guard looked unimpressed. "I can't have it on?"
"I'd prefer not, sir. Just in case someone says something. Alarms are fine if you have one of those."
"Not on her." He turned off the security system and ran a hand over some marks on the side, arming the Willow-given security system. The imps would scare anyone off who tried to touch it. He grinned and carried his helmet with him, going to the blue doors. Another guard stopped him so he had to go through the metal detector five times, until he got wise and pulled off his shirt to show off the scar on his chest and the piercing. "Shrapnel."
The guard nodded a few times. "We've seen some before. Come this way so we can use the hand wand and scan you." Xander nodded, moving over so they could test him for chemical residue. "Gunpowder?"
"Target practice. I was asked to appear by Special Agent DiNozzo?"
"That's fine." He finished it and put him through the x-ray, then handed him back his shirt and helmet, plus the basket of keys and things. "Thank you, sir." He handed him a visitor's pass. "To the elevator and up to the fourth floor please."
"Thanks." He put on his shirt as he walked, smoothing down his pockets as the door opened and showed a very goth girl standing there. "Abby? You still work for the suits?"
She looked confused. "Do I know you?"
"Xander, Willow's friend." She squealed and pulled him inside to hug him. He grinned at her, smoothing down her pigtails. "Willow's living here now too. Didn't she tell you?"
"No!" She stomped a foot and pouted. "Since when?"
"Since the hellmouth opened by the capitol." He pushed a button. "Pretty Boy came to get me."
"Oooh, Tony? He is kinda cute," she agreed, smiling as they got off the elevator. "Look who I ran into!"
"Please don't gang up together," Tony said, staring at them. "Your shirt's on inside out, Harris."
"I had to take it off so they could scan and x-ray the shrapnel, Pretty Boy. Sorry!" He took it off and put it back on the right way. "Better?"
"Eww, you got shot! When?"
"About six months ago. Hurt like hell!" he told her. She nodded. "Someone shot at you!" he demanded. She nodded again. "Are you okay or can I go hurt them now? No one should shoot at you! That's just wrong! They should be a greasy spot by now!"
"They are," she promised with a grin. "Trust me, they're very much a spot."
"Good! Let me know if I can call them back and torture them some more!"
She hugged him. "Call me Sunday so we can hang out!" She grinned at Gibbs since she had seen him coming. "I ran into him in the elevator."
"I heard your squeal. Mr. Harris." Xander nodded, grinning at him. "Abby, don't you have work?"
"Abby, email Willow an email address so she can send on the other stuff if necessary," Xander told her. "She's on and talking to Giles." She nodded, heading to do that. He saluted Gibbs. "You requested my help, Special Agent Gibbs?"
"I did. We got handed that case. DiNozzo found the pattern."
"Willow's double checking what's been reported to add to it." Gibbs looked amused. "I doubt they just went for the uniforms, which means the civy hospitals will have more casualties on record. She'll be faxing over the complete list to see if the pattern still fits."
"Good. What's with the boxes?"
"Two of the three boxes of stuff we got off the Initiative," he said. "Plus I had her put in a training and ID manual as well. They're on CD's in a holder."
"There's a manual?"
"We had to make our own," he admitted dryly. "It came in handy for girlfriends, boyfriends, those who wanted to jump in. The lone military idiot we took in thanks to Buffy and her ties to the Initiative when she dated one of them." He shrugged. "She was my friend but she had bad taste in boyfriends."
"She dated someone who did those things to those creatures?" Tony demanded. "How could you let her!"
Xander looked at him. "Pretty Boy, not all those creatures were innocent. Yeah, some were. Some, however, killed to eat, some killed for pleasure, and some killed for fun. For that matter, I hunted those same creatures in those classes that killed. It was necessary. I think about vampires like I do rapists: some may have their reasons from past traumas and stuff, but they should all be taken far away from polite society before they hurt people. So either they need their own island so they can do it to each other, or they need to be put down," he finished coolly. "I do what I do to protect people like you and those people who got attacked. Apparently I'm not as on-the-ball as I thought. I've been patrolling near the center of the hellmouth and working my way out slowly. Sorry." He looked at Gibbs again. "Willow can get you a more accurate number within hours. What did you need to know about the bastards in the Initiative?"
"You didn't side with them?" Gibbs asked.
Xander shook his head. "I didn't side with any of the murdering, torturing bastards. I never would. I endured having to watching Buffy coo at her boyfriend, who was one of their top goon squad leaders. When we had to break out a friend, they went down." Gibbs shuddered at that. "Sorry, but I'm real up front about that with those who know."
"How could you hurt things without knowing if they're going to hurt others?" Tony demanded.
Xander looked at him, looking a bit exasperated. "Vampires kill people, Pretty Boy. That's how they get what they need to live. They eat people. They suck all the blood out of you and either you die or become like them. So until you've either faced down a few and had to defend yourself from being eaten, because they do like them younger than you usually, or you've had to watch your friend be taken by them, or God Forbid, you have to stake one of them who used to be a friend, shut the fuck up." Tony looked pissed so he stepped closer. "Vampires accounted for nearly six hundred deaths last year in the US. They accounted for over ten thousand attacks in night clubs, in parks, on beaches, nice couples walking down the street, teenagers going to their first dance, people having sex in their cars, all sorts of folks got bitten by them. They kill to survive. They're not innocent. They're not fluffy little puppies. They're homicidal serial killers. I go out for those who are actively hunting others. I save lives. So either get the fuck off my case or hand it over to Gibbs. Sometimes you've got to do what's necessary, even if it's morally queasy-making for you." Tony backed off. "Got it?" He nodded quickly. "Good." He looked at Gibbs again. "Sorry. I haven't had dinner yet, I'm a bit testy." Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "What did you want to know, Gibbs?"
"First, let's start with the attacks. How long should it take her?"
Xander pulled out his phone and called her. "It's me. You nearly done? I just had to abuse the theory of 'killing innocent creatures'." He nodded, handing it to Gibbs. "Make sure that's the address you want them at." He looked at Tony. "Sorry I snapped at you."
"You've been doing this how long?" McGee asked.
"Fifteen." He looked at Tony again. "No one says *you* have to go if some of us end up taking things down," he offered quietly. "Sorta like the military, it's not meant for everyone." Tony glared at him. "Truth. The only way to stop these things is to make a stand. It's not like you can arrest them for it. They'll go 'poof' in the cell. Sunnydale tried that once." Gibbs nudged him and handed him back his phone. "Thank you, kind sir. Where do we start? Recon? Pathways? Habitats and basic lessons?"
"Let's start with the Initiative case. Someone wanted us to arrest anyone still connected with it."
Xander snorted. "There's some soldiers in some special ops groups going around the world hunting demons and there's a few of their supposed scientists. Everyone else either got eaten by something when the demons got freed from captivity and went after their abusers, or they fled and went into deep hiding with governmental permission. Good luck with that, but we have a full personnel list somewhere in the boxes."
"Do you really want to know?" he asked dryly, staring him down. "Let's just say it probably wasn't legally obtained."
"You're a hacker?" McGee asked.
Xander snorted. "No, honey, I'm not a hacker. Willow's a hacker. She does techno and wicca support, I do research and hunting. Since it's just the two of us here." He shivered. "That's also why I read Summerian, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Hieroglyphics, and about six demon languages well enough to make due with only looking up words every ten hours or so now. She covers some of the more obscure and pictographic languages for me." Tony's jaw dropped. "It's how we know about things like prophecies. That's why we moved here. Otherwise you'd still have an open hellmouth in the middle of the museums." He shrugged. "That's what I do for a hobby since no one'll pay me to do it."
"How did you get started?" Tony asked, looking a bit confused. "Fifteen? Did they come recruit at your high school?"
"No, we had the slayer, a girl who's genetically born and bred to do the job, move to our town and we made friends with her. We overheard her and she saved our asses, so we helped." He shrugged again and grabbed a desk chair to sit in backwards, looking at them. "Sorry, I'm a bit tired. Long night last night with the bar brawls."
"Not a problem," Gibbs admitted. He frowned a bit. "You're how old?"
"Nearly twenty-three. Just about a month from now."
"So, you've been doing this now for eight years?" he demanded. Xander nodded. "How often do you go out to hunt?"
"Nightly most of the time. On the lazy or slow weeks, maybe three days at the least. The rest is researching anything coming up and training for it. That's why I also know explosives to a degree."
"Damn," McGee said, mouth open. "How long are you going to have to do this?"
"Until someone else takes over. We've trained a bunch of the next generation of slayers already. There's one from here originally but she's not ready yet so we just have to hold on for the next year until she is. The others are mostly off wandering the world." He looked at Tony again. "Spit it out, Pretty Boy. What?"
"You seem so...hard about this."
"I'm as much a combat veteran as anyone in this building," he noted calmly and quietly. "I just fought in a different and never-ending war." Tony shivered and sat down behind his desk. He looked at Gibbs. "You've got two choices at this moment that I can see. Tell me if you see others. Either you train some of your soldiers in what to do and how to take these precautions. Do it under inner-city survival skills and stuff, or you send us to hunt. Your choice."
"Doing both would probably be better," Gibbs admitted. "I can't see our Navy allowing anyone to carry stakes or crossbows. They'd flip their toupees."
Xander grinned. "Vampires, for the most part, won't be that skilled. Yes, their demons give them some skills and strength, but not that much. They're always going to take the easier target, Gibbs. That's why they feed in clubs and places like that. It's easier to get a meal and no one will miss them for a while. That's also why they pick isolated targets. Late night joggers. People necking in their cars to cheat on their spouses or significant others. Couples wandering along beaches. The basic survival skills would help. Don't go out alone. Don't over-drink. Keep an eye on your friends in clubs. Fight back. Things that you tell them about muggers, rapists, and other modern annoyances that keep you from having fun in the clubs. I haven't met a vampire yet who uses Roofies, but I'm not ruling it out. I know the groups in LA actually held raves so they could get enough food for everyone. No one's going to miss them during the party or the rave or in the club unless they've got a buddy that's paying a lot of attention."
"Good point," Tony admitted, still frowning a bit. "What about around here? Where have you been hunting?"
"They've got their own clubs and bars. I don't go into those. Abby probably knows most of them because they're whispered about in her circles. Some want and some warn." He shrugged at that. "Usually I go to dance clubs. Packed places with music loud enough that you won't hear a scream. They hunt where the club rapists go for the same reasons. I usually do a turn through the Mall itself, just in case there's a gathering going on. Those you'll get chaos people, humans and not, who want to call on the powers that the bellybutton to hell gives them. Usually me showing up is enough for some of them to either laugh and break whatever they're doing or to make them jog off before they're caught. I've been slowly learning my way around the area and I've been slowly working my way toward the 'burbs. I'm still only one guy though. Maybe you should put out a story about a new rapist or something. It might make people more cautious."
Abby came bouncing back and handed over the forms she had. "Here, Gibbs, from Willow. She found about ten times what we had. The pattern was confirmed however. We broke it down by night as well." Xander grinned at her so she smiled back. "Did you scare McGee?"
"Hey!" he complained.
"Never mind, you took my valium." She looked at Tony. "You scared Tony? That wasn't nice, Xander."
"Yeah, well, we had a few moments there where I abused the notion that real vampires are fluffy little kittens." He grinned at her. "You wanna go hunting with me?"
"Eww, no. It'd be like killing family." She pursed her lips together and shook her head. "I'm not really comfy with that but I can protect myself from those who try me."
"Good girl," he praised, smiling brightly and stroking up her arm. "I need to date someone like you instead of the scary bitches I've had. Fix me up?" he begged, giving her the puppy eyes.
She snickered. "Most of the women I know are still scary, Xander. Just not in the homicidal way yours usually are. None of mine would want to eat you, just take care of you and make you goth too."
"I can do goth, but they've got to like my bike," he teased. "I look hot and scary as hell in leather pants."
She hugged him. "I'll check with my girls, see who's single. You could use a good girl or guy."
"Not much one for guys. Been there, didn't do much for me," he admitted.
"You need a real stud then, Xander. It's all good in the community." She kissed him on the cheek and grinned at Gibbs. "She wants to know if you need that extra box of stuff."
"Please. Just in case. We'll give them back to her and Harris when we're done with them." She nodded, bouncing off. He looked down at Xander. "You date scary women?"
"No, usually I end up dating women who want to kill me. Let's see, there was the man- eating bug lady. The mummy who wanted to suck my life force and kill me. There was the cranky cheerleader who did suck the life outta me. There was the former demon who had sexual issues, mainly she was a nympho and only loved me because I had a job so I was going to buy her things. You saw Bethany, I still see her now and then. There's been about six others who wanted to kill me as well. A few turned out to be vamps, some not."
"That's worse than my dating record and your three exes together, Boss," Tony said dryly.
"Shut up, DiNozzo." He looked at the kid again. "How do you tell?"
"Me personally?" Gibbs nodded, crossing his arms to stare at him. "You ever go clubbing?"
"Not in many years."
"Okay. Remember way back when," he said with a shit-eating grin. "You'd walk in and scan the crowd. You, Pretty Boy, and Fluffy there would probably be looking for someone hot to blow you in the back or the bathrooms." McGee made a protesting noise so he looked at him. "Never mind, you don't club."
"I do so go to clubs!"
"Martini bars, bars in general, and piano and music clubs don't count, Fluffy. I'm talking about *clubbing*. The act where you go where they play loud music so you can dance like you're having sex standing up in hopes to show that you'll be getting some later with someone who likes your style." McGee gave him a dirty look. "That sort of clubbing. Like the oh-so-phallic torpedo themed place downtown. Clubbing." He looked at Gibbs again. "These people seem a bit off. A bit too desperate. They're the ones in the shortest skirts who flirt the most. They're the ones in the tightest pants. Not the 'I'm a nympho and I'll do anything as long as I get some' but the 'I'll do anything if you'll feed my addiction for fun' sort. Just this side of nympho." Gibbs smirked a bit at that. "You only see them in goth gear, and that's only usually the older styles, if they're really old. They like to cling to the styles they had when they were alive. Anyone from before the twenties, you'll see them in something velvet, long dresses, jewelry, long hair. Those are the only goth looking vampires unless they were like that when they died. Usually the personality is the same, just more dark, evil, and sadistic once they're turned. That's the demon infecting them. They're the sort that'll come up and drool you to death because you smell nice, not because you dance well, but because you look well."
Tony sat up. "I've run into more of those recently."
"There were vamps here before the hellmouth in town opened, just not as many. They're drawn to it, like most demons are. The power calls to them from hell's bellybutton. Generally the closer you are to it, the more you'll find them. Now, your hellmouth is unique because that area is just where it's coming out, it's not the center. The center is a bit away. So if you find the epicenter of the attacks, you'll find the hellmouth itself. This is their hunting grounds. Their lairs, homes and safe spaces like their personal clubs, are further out. Hellmouths are unpredictable. If they open, and they often do, and something comes out, then vampires are on the bottom of the food chain. They want a chance to run if that's the case."
Gibbs nodded slowly. "That's sound strategically as well." Xander nodded. "Do they drive?"
"Yeah, they can do anything they did when they were alive. Drive, fight, have sex, drink. They do occasionally eat but they don't have to. I know a few who add things to their blood to make it have texture." He smirked a bit evilly. "You've never had breakfast until you've had breakfast sitting across from a vampire who just put Lucky Charms into his mug of blood and is sitting there playing with the marshmallows." Tony gagged at that. "Sorry. One of the Initiative's pet projects was a behavior modification chip. It shocks the hell out of your brain when you have bad thoughts about hurting others. They used those on the vampires. One of them escaped and came to our group for help. He'd been a pain in our asses for a while but we needed the help so we took him in. I spent many a day with Spike tied to the recliner in my former basement apartment. Of course, my formerly demonic ex fucked him night and day when I wasn't looking because he could go all night and I'm still human and was only nineteen at the time, but hey." He grinned at Gibbs. "Can you have it put around that there's some sort of weird cult in town going around killing to raise power and takes the blood for their rites? Don't have it associated with the goth movement but it would make people more cautious and wary. Thankfully this one'll only stay open for a few years, then we're moving to New York from what I've heard."
"I'll warn someone up there that you're coming when you're heading," Gibbs assured him. He stared the boy down. "That's not a bad idea but I don't know how to do that."
"You've got how many dead soldiers, Gibbs? You'll never find their killers and in truth, it was a cult of beings who killed them and used their blood for their rites and rituals, like dinner. Use one. It'll give the family closure to know something because no one will ever believe that their loved ones were eaten by vampires. Just don't go with the old 'gangs of people on PCP' thing that Sunnydale did. We all knew there wasn't enough PCP in the universe for the homicide rate we had." He stood up and looked at the maps Abby had handed him, tracing it out with a finger. "Okay, the hellmouth is here. For some reason it's skewing toward the river? What's that way?" he asked quietly. "Holy ground of some sort, some holy relic?"
"Arlington," he said quietly.
"A big plot of hallowed ground. That's enough reason to warp away from it," Xander agreed. He looked around. "Looks like we've got another spot of warping here but it looks localized. I'm guessing probably one of the more holy churches, one with true faith."
"There's an African American church there," Gibbs offered. "Somewhere on that block."
"They've usually got stronger faith than most of the other groups. Baptist or Methodist?"
"Methodist I think."
"Yeah, they'll be fine. They might get attacked but we'll put them on the watch list. Sometimes one of them will be smart and try to take out the things that prevent them from hunting an area. It wouldn't be the first time a church was burned," he said, sounding a bit sad. He pointed at another spot. "What's here? Catholic church isn't it?" Gibbs nodded. "They've probably got a holy relic or two inside, or they're very devout. That's what causes the warping, the strength of the faith that's soaked in for so long. It protects the building and the lands around it by radiating that faith back." He traced the other disturbances. "You've got a good church culture here. Sunnydale had twelve churches and none of them caused any warping. Ooh." He pointed at a spot. "What's here? That's got to have a power point with the way they're grouped."
Tony came over to look. "There's a Catholic school there and a few other businesses. Nothing like a club or where I'd expect them to hang out."
"A lot of times they hang out in warehouses, abandoned buildings, things like that. Since they don't need running water and electricity, it's easier and they can gather their minions with them." He tapped the two spots of disturbance, pulling out his phone. He hit the send key, dialing Willow again. "It's me again. Did you notice the two power points? Find out where? Thanks. No, but we do have some interesting warping going on. A few good churches, it looks like Arlington is as well. Yeah, thanks. Let me know." He hung up. "She'll look into it. It's not a highly studied phenomenon."
"You mean people study this stuff?" McGee asked. "Why?"
"There was a whole group of people in England who ran the slayers and this was their life's work, Fluffy. They did this stuff for centuries, since before writing started. Before they got blown up by a major demon a few years back, the Watchers's Council had the biggest library of paranormal, magical, and sacred texts anywhere on this plane or any others that we know of. And yes, before you say it, magic does exist." He looked at Tony's desk, then around, lighting a candle on top of a filing cabinet. Then he nodded at it for their benefit. "Willow doesn't know I can do that so don't tell her, 'kay?" he offered with a grin. He looked at Gibbs again. "I'm figuring this is probably going to have to be a multi- phase attack plan. We're going to have to get people paranoid to be safer and lower the death rates and we're going to have to hunt stronger now and then. Or really I will. The news of the cult will go faster and easier. You can say that they moved on to New York if you want when we all go."
Gibbs considered it. "I'd have to ask the higher ups about that. They handle that stuff. I just solve crimes."
"That's cool with me," Xander agreed. "You guys can get hold of us now. What else can I help with?"
"The Initiative stuff."
"Hey, if you want the torturing freako bastards, go for it," he promised. "We took out a good number of them and their little pet Frankenstein monster they were working on. Doctor Walsh was not a happy woman when her baby ran her through."
"Doctor Walsh?" Tony asked.
Xander walked over and opened both boxes, digging into them. "Personnel list," he said proudly, handing it to him. He tossed McGee the CD carrier. "ID and Hunting manuals. Make sure Abby makes copies for anyone who needs 'em. Willow encrypts them and the password is given to you by her. It's already in there." He nodded, going to hand those to her at Gibbs' nod, because he was really confused. Xander waited until he was gone and looked at Gibbs. "Will he be able to handle this?" he asked quietly.
"No. He'll handle the other stuff if we end up slacking due to this."
"That's fine." Xander dug through some other things, coming up with a set of DVD's. "Here, security footage of them testing things and what things could do. We used that in conjunction with the manuals to determine if there were inaccuracies in the manuals. They make good demonstration models. Whatever you do, if someone named Finn, Graham, or Dravin show up, arrest them. They're doing the demon hunting now but they were part of that." Tony shuddered. "Graham's his first name I think." He shrugged. "He was part of Riley Finn's hit squad that gathered test subjects." He got back to work. "Ah-ha! This you'll need," he said, handing it directly to Gibbs. "That's proof that they took some innocent goth kids and hurt them a few years back. That way you can get them on legitimate homicide without having to expose everyone to demons and make them all drunken slobs."
Gibbs put them on the desk behind him. "Thanks for that, kid. Now, let's get back to the other topic. How are you hunting that much?"
"I get off work at three, head out then, go home and sleep at sunup." He shrugged. "It limits my time out but my nights off I get more done. After I'm done here, I'll either go back to work or go hunting."
"How about if you trained some volunteers?" Gibbs asked.
"Staking isn't as easy as it looks, Gibbs. Vamps are five to ten times stronger than a person, they're faster too. It's like knife fighting with only one target that's viable to hurt them. If you know someone who can knife fight and has good hand-to-hand, I'll gladly work with them. In return, if I've got to go undercover, I'd expect them to give me some backup."
"You, undercover?" McGee snorted as he returned.
"Yeah, because I know the life. I can walk the walk and talk the talk and beat the shit outta the minions easily. There's always times when a good hunter ends up in their territory. Not that they can't tell that I'm alive, but they know that I'm marked by at least three Masters."
"Um," Tony asked, raising a finger.
"Over a hundred years old and have sired a childe. Angelus, Spike, and Dru all marked me as theirs to turn. Spike and Angel are still alive. Poor Dru got it in the end by her chaos demon and his slime dripping horns." He looked at Gibbs. "We got a deal?"
"We've got a deal," he agreed. "You wanna show me some moves?"
"You got a vamp handy? It's not like I wanna hurt Pretty Boy and Fluffy here."
"Let him have Ziva, Boss," Tony offered with an evil smirk.
"Oh, gee, you still have Satan's Mistress here?" he asked dryly.
"Yeah, she's around here somewhere. Tony, call her back so we can see."
"Sure, Boss, gladly." He paged her and then leaned against the front of his desk. "Do you think we can keep it down?"
"With some mild paranoia started and people patrolling, it has in the past," Xander offered. "If I have to, I'll summon one of the younger brats myself. It'll help. She can't get in everywhere but just having one here will help some. More than vamps I'm worried about the chaos sorcerers moving in and trying their hands at power politics."
"That's not real," McGee said.
"Now, look at the candle and say that," Xander retorted. Ziva walked in. "Morning."
Ziva glared at him. "What is he doing here?"
"Dead soldiers with a lot of blood loss. That's my thing," he said cheerfully. "And you're my practice dummy, Mistress of Hell."
"I know three martial arts," she said bitterly. Xander shrugged and attacked, making her defend herself. "This isn't the area for that." She blocked a hit but the boy backed her further against a desk, making her duck and move. He grinned and followed, knocking her down and a stake appeared in his hand, resting against her chest. "How did you do that?"
"I fight things that are stronger, faster, and stupider than you," he noted dryly, getting up. He tossed it at Gibbs. "I've got others at home. So, who's your knife fighter?" He ran a hand through his hair. "I really prefer sneak attacking. They don't fight back as often and don't scream and whine to bring others running."
"I can tell. Nice job," he praised.
Tony raised a hand slightly. "Is that a formal style?"
"No." Xander glanced at him and she sprung up, going for him again. He grabbed her and put her on her back, then muttered something with a hand on her face, making her go still. "And that, Fluffy, is magic to bind and paralyze her." He looked at Tony again and grinned his most goofy grin. "I've picked it up here and there over the last eight years. After tripping over my feet, falling into graves, and getting my ass kicked, I learned." He turned and freed her. "Now try it again and I'll put you back down and leave you frozen. Let's see if Gibbs can track down someone else who can do magic."
Ziva groaned and stood up slowly, rubbing the back of her head. "Are we done now?"
"Sure," Gibbs agreed. "You and I are learning how to do that."
"Fine," she agreed. "Why?"
"Lots of people with lack of blood when their bodies were found," Gibbs told her. "Base personnel and not."
"What's the cause?"
Xander took one of the videos out of the CD carrier and handed it to Tony. "Run that, I can do the usual lecture, Pretty Boy."
"You could use my name."
"Why? You're so cute," he cooed, pinching him on the cheek. "Some day, Fluffy there will grow into a man like you."
"Fluffy?" Ziva asked. McGee raised a hand slightly.
"He's always like this, Ziva, feel free to join the club," Tony complained, handing it to McGee. "Run that. It's on your computer." He ran it and Xander came over to put in the password he had. It opened up more files and McGee looked at him.
He opened one, pointing at it. "This is Spike. Spike was a vampire who was behavior chipped by a super covert government and military program called the Initiative." He started to pace. "We know this for a fact because we saw the chip when he died. I also know Spike very well because I became his babysitter for a while. Before anyone says anything about vampires," he said, taking the remote McGee held out. He flipped up five screens. "That's one in full vamp mode. Notice the ridges on the brow and the differences in the eyes and face. That is not makeup and contacts." He flipped back two. "Neither is that." He looked at Ziva. "That is a person being killed. We were taping the area and found it going on." He clicked on a button. "Watch." The film ran and McGee ran to get sick. Ziva turned pale. Gibbs groaned and turned away. Xander stopped it and looked at Tony. "That makes you able to handle this. Gibbs?"
"I'll take it with you and Ziva," he told Tony. He looked at Xander. "That fine with you?"
"Sure. Easy enough to train three. That gives me a demonstration model." He grinned again. "When and where?"
"How about your next night off?" Gibbs suggested.
"Sunday. Bar's closed."
"You're bartending?" Ziva asked.
"Yeah, at a very nice biker bar. I don't suggest you come in. Some of the guys are a bit...sexist. And some are fairly anti-foreigner after their last military service."
"It happens," Tony admitted. "I'm guessing the greater majority are okay?"
"Yeah, and my boss knows what I do after I go home." He leaned against a desk. He flipped to the second picture and showed it to them. "There are approximately six hundred vamps in the US that we know of," he told them. "As far as I know, there's about fifty already in town making more of themselves. Those dead soldiers, you have two choices. Either prepare your ME for someone to raise, or have him start to insert small pieces of wood in the heart and then expect some to turn to dust. Usually one out of every ten food sources are turned." He flipped forward again. "Okay, this is one who was turned and rose. Notice the ME backing away slowly. That guy has some sense. Watch." The fledge rose up and looked around, then grabbed the ME. Suddenly he burst out in screaming terror. "Notice that he's presently burning. The ME was smart and had a holy artifact on him and habitually drank holy water so the vampire's not having fun at the moment. The fledge is about too...." He paused. The fledge burst into dust. "And that's what happens when they go 'sploosh'. Wood to the heart, and only the heart. If you're off by even a centimeter, you're going to do it again and again until they either kill you or you get it right. If you're off and keep going off, then you're likely dead. As is that ME now. He sorta died when the town fell in."
Xander walked over and typed in another address, bringing up an internet site. "This is what happens when a hellmouth implodes," he said, enlarging the aerial view of the town. "If it's not closed as soon as it opens, things come out. Starting with a very mean fifty- someodd foot tentacle monster that really hates my ass. If it stays open, it'll eventually have to close and this will create pressure. Just like a bomb. Outflow and then suck." He enlarged the picture again. "Notice the radius of the implosion. This one was particularly bad. Right before it sucked the town in, we were inside it fighting with some unstoppable vampires. We won. Barely." He looked at Tony. "Have you been to Sunnydale since the last time we talked?"
"No. Is anyone still there?"
"Yeah. Some people moved back and decided to rebuild. Giles, the Watcher we worked with when Buffy was alive, is still there and training the remaining slayers there. They're about here," he said, pointing at a small building. "They're also mostly underground at the moment. The town's rebuilding but it's slow." He looked at Gibbs. "Hell's really not as hot as they say but it's really overcrowded and I could've sworn I saw some politicians." He tossed the remote to Tony. "All yours, Pretty Boy. Until you either turn off that computer or take out the disc, you've got access to the heavier background files. After that, the password in the carrier will get you into the general files. We do that so the nice little kids that end up as slayers have to actually call for help if they get into something too big. Because they're all cocky teens with superhero complexes. Learn from that mistake, Pretty Boy. You had it the last time I saw you." He saluted Gibbs and smirked. "Need me for more, Gibbs? Or should I take my bike back to work?"
"How about you show us how to hunt or we go look at the bodies? Ducky's still here?" McGee nodded. "Then let's go. Maybe you can tell."
"Sure." He followed them onto the elevator. "Usually they rise the same night. So either you're missing bodies or they're really retarded vampires." They got off the elevator and he grinned at the ME. "Ducky."
"Xander!" He walked over and hugged him. "What are you doing here?" He pushed him back to look over. "Where is my stupid, young nephew?"
"Still back on the hellmouth, but we've got one here now so he sent Willow and me." He grimaced a bit. "Now I get to train these guys how to do it." He grinned at him. "We love you. How many have you had rise? Since the hellmouth opened here?"
"Only three so far. I suspect we've missed a great many." He smiled at the boss. "Jethro, how on earth did you meet Xander?"
"Remember that case in Santa Clara?" Xander said dryly. Ducky smiled and nodded. "I met Pretty Boy, Fluffy, and Gibbs there. Pretty Boy and Gibbs stayed but Fluffy and Satan's Mistress came back here to bother you guys."
"Satan's Mistress?" McGee asked.
"She came out and started to scream at him, he tossed her back a few times and kicked her off the construction site," Tony explained. "Please use my name."
"Anthony," Ducky chided as only an older British man could. "He's only teasing. He's a very nice young man. He was always so conscientious when I visited my nephew Rupert. Such a nice boy," he said, patting him on the cheek. "You must come see Mother again, Xander."
"Sure. Invite me over. I'm working at The Palm."
"Oooh, a motorcycle club. Are you riding now?" Xander beamed and nodded. "I'll ask you to take me for a ride later."
"I'm parked outside if you want."
"Not tonight. There's a small issue of backflow of bodies."
"Yeah, the hellmouth here opened downtown and drew the creeps here." He shrugged. "Enter one researcher and one hunter. Wills and I live over on J."
"Ah. Give me your number so I can call." Xander pulled a pen out of his pocket and wrote it on his collar, making him smile. "Thank you, that way I can't lose it." He kissed him on the cheek. "Be a good boy, Xander."
"Why don't you call him Alexander, Ducky?" Gibbs asked. "You use the rest of our proper names."
"Because I about slugged him for it," Xander said bitterly. "It brings up some bad memories, okay?" He looked at Ducky again. "Call my pale, tired butt and I'll gladly give you a ride. I do it for the neighborhood kids too." He grinned. "So, we need how many more bodies?"
"Going on the one-to-ten standard ratio? Probably about eight more," he offered.
"Ooh, peachy," Xander said in direct imitation. "If we're lucky or are you being overly optimistic?"
"That may be optimistic. They may be building more people. I do know that most of the ones I have are fairly ill. Do we have anything from the old Council on beginning actions?"
"Barely. Very barely. A few journals. That makes sense since minions equal power and the ability to rule an area, but if you make too many they get out of hand." He frowned. "We'll need a list of missing people then."
"We can do that tonight," Gibbs agreed. "Can you meet us tomorrow?"
Xander looked at him. "I go to work at six. I get up at three. Between those hours, stop over and we can do that. I still need to eat and all that stuff."
Gibbs nodded. "Good point. After all, you have to earn a living doing other stuff."
"If someone would pay me for it, I'd be happy but I doubt it's happening." He shrugged and grinned again. "I'm headed back to work, Ducky. You know the usual precautions. Need my help at this moment?"
"Not unless one's going to rise. I had hoped they'd send one of the girls and Rupert."
"No such luck. He's underground back at hell's tongue and is training the remaining slayers. I'll tell him you said hi and to come visit though. He can shack up with Willow again."
"Really?" he asked, looking really impressed. "They did? Oh, I remember her, she was quite lively and pretty, yes, such a delicate young woman."
"They seriously did," he agreed dryly. "They called it shock and recovering after the tragedy." Ducky laughed. "At least she wasn't as cranky for a few days and he quit cleaning his glasses unless she was there blushing at him." He smirked a bit. "I'll call and tell him you're here."
"Thank you. I would appreciate at least a letter." He patted the boy on the cheek again. "Be safe and check in with me often. Call me here if you get too hurt as well." Xander nodded, giving him another hug, then he left. "Jethro, you're relying on the most fragile of resources to solve this problem. Be aware of that before you overuse him."
"That's why we're working out how to save the rest of us," he agreed. "What do you know about the boy?"
"Not much. What Rupert told me mostly. He's had some things to say about the boy and what I saw when I was out there for my last visit, it totally countered his observations. Perhaps Rupert wasn't studying the group, but I was very interested and I used the skills that Caitlyn and you had taught me over the years. Study him, carefully. He is still fairly fragile, Jethro, and he is still very human. The boy will kill himself to save us all; he feels it's his duty, but it's not just his job."
"He said he could call another hunter out," Tony offered.
"That won't be enough. This isn't the usual situation and he knows it. Someone *opened* this Hellmouth. Intentionally. I can only guess why."
"I'll keep that in mind and talk to the boy again," Gibbs assured him. "Is he that good?"
"Oh, my, yes, though Rupert never saw it. None of them ever saw the real him. That boy is much more complicated than everyone gives him credit for. To them he's either a goofy young lad who likes to joke around, or he's some sort of foot soldier. He's all that and more. Take care of that young man. He is the one who saves us all too often."
"Fine. McGee, get me that list of missing personnel from all the area bases and stations. DiNozzo, get some rest. You'll need to do some training to train with him. You and me both. I only jog most of the time."
"Sure, Boss. I can't believe they did some of those things."
"Which them? Vampires are known to torture and pillage upon whim of their demons."
"The Initiative, Ducky," Tony said quietly.
Ducky turned and hit the wall, then looked at him. "Should you find those bastards, I would like to sit in on the interrogation and torture."
"We have their files upstairs, Ducky," Gibbs said calmly. "Two boxes and some DVD's they pulled with another box coming."
"Jethro, do not watch those alone," he ordered quietly, stepping closer. "The one I had the misfortune to see them editing for dark frames and power outages made me ill and I've seen about everything mankind has dreamt up to this date in history."
"I'll take that under advisement, Ducky," he agreed. "We'd better go. Will you be okay?"
"I'm fine, Jethro. I can easily stake a fledgling vampire. Go home and rest. It will be a long week." They nodded and left. Ducky said a silent prayer and went back to his wood embedding program.
Xander walked into the bar, nodding at his boss. "Sorry. Had to hand over new information on that nasty crap I do after hours."
"You a Fed, boy?" one of the bikers called.
"No. They needed my input on a case. I used to do construction." He looked at his boss, giving him a long stare. "So, do you need me back tonight since Sue's here?"
"Go. Sleep for once."
Xander grinned. "Thanks, Boss. Maybe I'll even guilt Willow into cooking." He turned and found two of the bikers behind him. "Yes, gentlemen?"
"You went with the Feds," one said, poking him.
Xander looked up at him. "Of course I did. They asked for my *help* with something. That's a nice thing. They had to come bust a guy for child molestation at a construction site I worked on in Cali. They knew me and know I know my shit. They didn't ask a thing about you guys, only the hours I'm here so they can get me without having to bother you guys. They were even very polite and nice to the guys here at that time."
"They're still cops!" the second one sneered.
"Technically, they're Marine and Navy cops. They handle dead Marines and dead Sailors. Things like that. That isn't anything at all to do with you unless you're in the Reserves?" They both sneered. "Then they weren't here for you, just for some information I had. Hence me being back already."
"What can *you* help them with?" the first sneered. Xander glanced at his boss, who shook his head. "No, don't look at him, punk." He took a swing and Xander blocked it.
"Don't. You know better."
"What? He can't fight us!" the second sneered.
Xander sighed. "Boss? One way or the other."
"Boys, stand down!" the owner ordered. That brought some of the bouncers. "Now, boys. Let's not make Xander prove he can brawl with the best of them. We don't want another pool stick incident, do we?"
"I'm not usually that mean, Boss," Xander complained. He continued to stare at the guys. "All they wanted to do was talk to me about some construction stuff. I'm very good at that stuff." He shrugged. "They're nice guys finding the bad guys who kill soldiers." He got shoved again and he looked at the bouncers. "Last time. Fair warning." He saw the door open and saw who came in, Pretty Boy. He looked at them again and shrugged. "It was construction stuff. Nothing massive or truly important."
"You told them what we do here," the first accused. He shoved Xander and Xander sighed, slugging him in the gut and backhanding the second one. He walked over them shaking his head. "Boss, I'm going home now."
"Sure. Thank you for not continuing." He smirked at the Fed. "You wanna tell them what you needed them for?"
"Something relating back to the construction case we had to interrupt one of his jobs over. It had arms dealing, child molesters, and embezzlement dating back ten years. He took over for the guy we arrested. He helped us with the forms we were confiscating." He walked in and looked at them. "We don't care what you do unless you're in the reserves or on active duty. We only care about what happens in the Marines and the Navy." He looked at him. "Thank you for lending us the kid earlier."
"Not a problem. He's a good kid. Try to keep him calm."
"I'll try. Does he tease you too?"
"Not if he wants paid."
Tony nodded. "Wish I had that hold over him." He looked at the kid again. "I'm following you home." He walked out, going with him. "One of the DVD's wasn't readable."
"He's pirating them?"
"No, I have a hacker buddy who hacked a security system on a base and caught someone doing something really fucking stupid," Xander told him. "They tracked her through me, yet again. Whole different matter, Boss."
"Maybe you're gonna go take it up the ass from him," the guy on the floor sneered. He stood up, glaring at the boy. "Is that it?"
"First, not my thing," Xander noted dryly, leaning on the wall. "Even if I was gay, I wouldn't want you, or anyone in here. I have definite requirements for my lovers, and one of them is at least a 36-C. So, until he starts taking drugs and becomes at least a tranny, he's not for me. Mind what goes on in your ass, not mine." The guy roared and ran at him. Xander moved and let him hit the wall. The guy caught him around the waist and he flipped him off, then walked over him. "I'm going home, Boss. See you tomorrow night or not?"
"That's fine." He waved and looked at the agent. "Try to keep him out of trouble. He's a good boy. Most of the time."
"So I got told by our ME." He walked after the boy, looking at his bike. "That's a nice ride. When did you start riding?"
"About a year ago. When Sunnydale went ...." He spit. "It spoke to me." He got on and put on his helmet. "You don't remember where I live?" Tony shook his head. "Follow me, Pretty Boy Fed." He sighed and took off.
"Why won't he use my name?" he complained as he got into his car. He might like the kid if he used his name. He followed him back to his place and parked, then followed him inside.
Xander leaned in Willow's apartment. "If you're on with Giles tell him his uncle Ducky said hi. He's the ME for the NCIS guys I'm working with. Also, Gibbs is getting a list of missing persons unaccounted for. You might be getting those. Also tell him his uncle wants to have an actual, face-to-face conversation with him if he wouldn't mind. Note that I've noticed a good bit of warping of the energy fields here due to positive energy and I'm looking into that if he's got sources still with him, and yes, we could use a girl here. I'm off for the rest of the night but I've got Pretty Boy with me. Have fun with the chatting stuff." He closed her door and headed up the stairs, opening his.
"You don't lock your door?"
"I had it coded so only I can open my door," he offered, letting him in and shutting it behind him. He ran his hand over a piece of it. "Willow did the security for me." He headed for the kitchen, taking off his jacket on the way. "I've got decent beer, crummy beer, koolaid, and soda. You want?"
"Soda's fine. Thanks, Xander." A can got tossed to him and he smiled at the beer. "You thought I needed it?"
"Soda's still warm. My fridge needs replaced," he admitted, coming out with a warm can of soda. "See?" He let him feel it. "So, which one was unreadable?"
"Just an excuse. I wanted to get some more information from you." He followed Xander to the couches, sitting on the opposite end from him. "How long do you think this'll last?"
"Probably a few months after it's closed for good," he admitted, opening his soda. He got up and found a book he had, bringing it over. "This is the one on the warping I noticed earlier." He let him see the maps. "It was done in London, but you can see the holy relics and the holiest of holy grounds and where they are."
"What language is this in?"
"Latin. I had to learn, almost none of the research materials were in teenager or English." Tony grinned at that. "I passed English with a D but I read at least ten languages. It's an odd thing to be me." He sat down and curled up with a groan. "Sorry, sore back. We had some major brawls last night."
"I bet. Some of them didn't look that friendly." He looked the boy over. "You're not the same guy, kid."
"I am, I'm just the guy who went on the hunt there that you followed around and watched tease the succubus." He sipped his soda, grinning a bit. "The other me shows up a lot and we're all good about that." He smirked a bit. "My boss at the bar, he's a Vet and had been captured by a hunting group of vamps in 'Nam, he told one guy I don't have a 'flee' response anymore, just a strategic retreat." He stood up and stretched, then winced again. "Let me get something for that, I'll be right back." He headed into the bathroom then came back out with the bottle of pain killers. Tony looked at it, then at him. "Recent injuries were worse than usual." He popped one and gulped some of his soda, making a gross face. "They should at least cover them with something that isn't so nasty tasting."
Tony watched the boy. "You don't plan to retire, do you?"
"I figured out a long time ago that I'm already dead," Xander said seriously. "I'm just too stubborn to lay down and actually fade. After eight years of constant combat, life threatening emergencies, watching my friends die and be turned, and then watching all of us go to hell, I'm fine with dying. If I die during a hunt, I'm good with that as long as I take him or her out too. If I die on the job I might be a bit pissed at dying due to a human being doing it, but hey. You can't choose your method unless you're committing suicide, right?" He saluted him with his soda. "We all go sometime."
"Point." He leaned forward, resting on his knees. "What have you guys handled out there? I doubt a small town like Sunnydale could hold more vampires than DC could."
"Ah, but Sunnydale was a hellmouth that was active for over two hundred years. Every inch of that town was oozing the energy from it. Those of us born there were slightly warped by it. Those who moved there got it within their first year. Energy like that is radiation, Pretty Boy. You endure it. When you leave, you start to feel a bit sick because you're used to it and the lack of it outside, keeping the energy inside you high, isn't there. When I left to go to Santa Clara, I was sick by the time I got home. Willow and I both had to head to LA to detox before coming here so we'd be watched. The radiation here, even standing directly over the hellmouth's opening, isn't anything compared to where we came from," he offered quietly. "You've got power here, but even the unholy power that some use is cleaner here. The vamps are weaker here. The demons are weaker here. The chaos and white lighter witches are weaker here. Hell, I think I'm the only strong one magically and that's really odd considering Willow's thousands of times stronger than I am."
"Because she learned magic on the hellmouth and tied herself into it," he said quietly. "She can touch ground and earth magic but the hellmouth calls for her. I learned it off the hellmouth and I learned how to touch a lot of different magics, and I never touched the hellmouth's magic. She's had a much worse time with this than I have. I figure within the year she'll be back in Sunnydale and I'll be here by myself and doing long distance reporting." Someone knocked. "I knew you were listening," he called. "It's open." She walked in and handed him a plate, smiling at Tony. "Ducky said you were cute."
"I remember Ducky and Giles is bringing Eliana out next week." She kissed him on the cheek. "You will be careful," she ordered, staring into his eyes. "You're still not at full fighting level."
"I'm fine," he reminded her, eating a bite of dinner. "I have been fine. It hasn't stopped me from hunting yet, just caught me off guard the other day. I've already begun compensating for it."
"Fine." She smiled at Tony. "I'm making pot roast, Agent DiNozzo, would you like some?"
"No, that's fine," he offered with a smile. "I've got cold pizza and chinese at home."
"That's his usual thing too," she admitted with a grin. "That's why I have to cook things like pot roasts." He smiled more brightly at that and she grinned a happier grin. "So, is he training one of your agents?"
"Myself, my boss, and our lone female agent."
"Cool. I'm guessing you guys already know some hand-to-hand so it should go okay. After you get the basics, it's basically practicing and going hunting to watch him do it so you don't die within your first week." She sighed and looked at Xander. "I miss our treks through the cemeteries."
"Me too, Wills, but we can't help it." She nodded, leaving them alone and closing the door after her. "It's been a hard few years on her. She lost her soul mate, Tara, she had grief issues, then the Hellmouth started to open to let out one of the top people in evil." He ate another bite. "Sorry, if I'm not finished by the time she comes back for the plate, she'll nag."
"You gotta eat when you get the chance," Tony agreed, relaxing again. "You were badly injured in that last fight?"
"A bit. Some before it too." He shrugged. "It happens to even the best of us. Slayers usually survive about ten months, average. Buffy lasted almost seven years. I've lasted eight and so has Willow but she doesn't do much with the hunting."
"I'm a stubborn bastard. Sometimes you've got to be. I'm also very, very lucky," Xander assured him. Tony nodded at that, smirking a bit. Xander shrugged one shoulder. "I'm fine with that knowledge and I know I'm not the best. VanHelsing I'm not. Though that was a cute movie. She and I sat and giggled over it a few times."
"I'm guessing you guys watched _Interview_ and laughed too?" he teased.
"Quite a bit. Yes, vampires can have sex." He finished his dinner and put the plate down, then stretched out again, only wincing a bit this time. "Sorry, sore back and my head's still aching."
"No. Not recently anyway. A few in the past." Tony raised an eyebrow. "In my younger days I had this nasty habit of hitting walls. I still do now and then but not as often."
"How did you learn hand-to-hand?"
"Hmm. Truth?" Tony nodded. "I had to, I was the biggest bully magnet in our school. I had to learn some to protect myself and block shots. Then I slowly built my way up. There's stuff you could probably teach me and I could probably join a martial arts class or something, but I don't have the time for that or the energy. Between work and hunting I'm not ever sure how I used to date." He yawned. "It happens I guess, but I'm not sure how I did it."
"Maybe it was because you weren't the only hunter."
"Point," Xander admitted. He grinned. "I used to go to clubs for fun."
Tony nodded. "I do that now and then. Where did you head for that?"
"In Sunnydale we only had one. Here, I've been down at the torpedo place a lot. It's open later since it's not really serving liquor. By the time we go to New York I'm going to have to switch clubbing styles, I'll be too old to go to the good clubs and get in. Maybe I'll take on a protege and train him to go. One of the bikers at the club knows some and he's pretty decent."
"He might mind having to move and hunt all the time."
"We're hoping to get to New York and stop it before it opens. We couldn't get here in time because Giles miscalculated the hour and time, plus our flight was late. Otherwise this wouldn't have been so much of an issue."
"We traced the prophecy you sent us. We thought we had stopped it."
"Someone else probably took over after they noticed the first set was gaining power and status in their chosen fields. People who play with those levels of power do it for what it brings them. Power. Magical, physical, monetary, status wise, all sorts of power. Power to attract whatever pretty boy or girl they want. Power to control things that they couldn't before. All sorts of power out there and they want to gather as much as they can of it."
"I've met others like that," he admitted. "Our present director is like that."
"I'm so sorry. Is she into the blacker arts?"
"No, just trying to reseduce the boss again."
Xander snorted. "I think Gibbs is a man with taste. If he's already left it once, he probably won't be going back to it. He doesn't seem like someone to pick through the trash for the leftovers."
Tony giggled a bit at that imagery. "No, he's not. Anytime there's trash to go through, Probie and I get it."
"I'm sorry." He grinned at him. "You'll be fine. You're already aware of your surroundings. That's part of who you are and a major part of hunting. The staking is actually secondary because you don't want to stake them unless you're sure they're a vampire. Another very good reason to hunt in clubs, you can get close enough to feel lack of body temperature."
"Gibbs thought you were luring that succubus off to hunt her on the boardwalk."
"No, I wanted information but succubuses will do anything in the world to get laid. They need sex to live, that's what they feed off of, the energy you give out during sex. That's why they go hunt in clubs as well. They can soak it out of the air and don't have to kill, which is messy and brings attention to them." Tony nodded at that. "Vampires, as a rule, don't care about leaving bodies lying around unless they're being sneaky and building a family clan. Those're usually the ones who're also planning on giving us the major problems or doing stupid stuff like putting nasty demons back together so the demon can destroy the world and give them somewhere dark and sluggish with blood to rule."
"Who did that?"
"Angelus. Buffy's first love," he sighed, getting up to get another soda. "You want another one?"
"No, I've still got half a can."
Xander nodded and headed into his bedroom, tossing over something when he came out. "My journal from that year. Angelus was a vampire who had been cursed with a soul. It had a happiness clause. He was in love with Buffy, our slayer friend, and granted her the lack of virginity for her seventeenth birthday. Bye-bye soul." He sat down again, hissing a bit.
"Are you still in pain?"
"More stretchy, muscle hurts really." Tony looked at the bottle, then at him. "Yeah, I know. It's what I have lying around."
"Ducky could get you something more suitable."
"I can't afford new drugs at the moment. I have to pay mortgage costs."
"You own the building?"
"How else are we going to have somewhere to train, work, and live, plus store the weapons?"
"You sound like a terrorist cell now."
"Yeah, well, it's some of the same skills," he noted dryly. "We've seen some Feds before about that issue. Especially after the school blew up." He took another sip and looked out the window. "Is that snow?"
"You've never seen snow?"
"Once and it caused hell on earth that day." He got up to look, staring outside. "It's pretty."
"It is, but be careful driving on it. You're liable to skid if you go too fast and you'll be braking slower too."
"Good to know. They covered driving in snow theoretically in driver's ed, but I wasn't paying too much attention." He sipped his soda. "I want that journal back within four days, Pretty Boy."
He stood up. "I'll take this to Gibbs so he can read it first. You should take a hot shower and go to bed."
"That's what I'm planning on." He grinned at him. "Have fun."
"You too. Be safe." He let himself out, heading down to his car. Someone was drooling on it and he coughed. "Federal Agent," he said dryly.
"Harris knows Feds?" he asked, smirking a bit. "Why?"
"I had to work on a case with him. Does he call you cutesy names too?" The guys laughed. "Exactly." He got into his car and drove off, heading for Gibbs' house. It wasn't a long drive and he took the back roads so he wouldn't have to deal with traffic issues. By the time he got there it was fully dark and Gibbs' lights were on but you couldn't see him inside. He parked and got out, walking up to the door. He didn't even have to knock, Gibbs was already opening it. "Heard me?"
"Saw you. I was fixing more coffee." Tony held up the journal. "What's that?" he asked as he took it, letting him inside.
"His journal from when he was seventeen. He said he wants it back in four days." He followed him to the kitchen, sitting at the table to watch him move around for more coffee. His boss leaned against the counter, starting to read. "He's a bit injured, Boss. Did Ziva tag him?"
"Not really. She got a few blows in. Why?"
"He was taking vicodin."
"He said past injuries and he's got 'stretchy muscle hurts' at the moment. Hissed a lot each time he moved."
"Hmm." He went back to reading, turning the page after a moment. "Who's Angel?"
"Buffy's first crush. Apparently he was a vampire who had a curse and when he slept with her it uncursed his soul. From what he said, he went back to being bad."
"Oh." He went back to reading, then shook his head a few times. "He should write fiction." He handed it back after a few more pages. "Tell me how it turns out."
"You want a book report?" he asked smartly.
"At least it should be better than your usual reports." He smirked back. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, there's something wrong with him. I don't know what, Boss, but something's off. He told me about the energy fluxes and those things and I'm wondering if he's still affected. He's a lot quieter than he was before. He wasn't bouncing, chattering, or anything. He got up to watch it snow."
"Everyone but you and Abby grow up and mature, DiNozzo."
"This wasn't mature, Boss. I'm not sure this isn't depression. He said he's already dead, he's just too stubborn to fall down yet."
Gibbs sighed and nodded. "Welcome to long term combat, DiNozzo. After a while it sucks out your soul and you become a person who's not ready to die, but you've pretty much made friends with the idea." He took a sip of coffee. "Most people get breaks in combat, but you see it in field agents. That's when you know to rotate them out of that area and give them a vacation and then different danger. Or else they trip and fall."
Tony wrote down the address. "That's where he lives, Boss. Just in case we need it. They've apparently got the whole building. He's got a training space in there somewhere. I made a joke about it sounding like a terrorist training cell and he said they'd been accused of that before, especially after the high school exploded."
"High school exploded?" Tony nodded. "When?"
"I'll find out tomorrow."
"Good. Or ask Abby. She's probably already got the fact file drawn up." He finished that cup of coffee. "Anything else come of it?"
"We're getting a girl named Eliana in a week with Rupert Giles coming to visit his uncle."
"Good. Ducky could use some fun. Any other good news?"
"Yeah." He stood up and walked over. "Someone's got to watch the kid, Gibbs. I'm serious, something's off about him even beyond the stress and tiredness. You ever watch a marathon runner in that last few hundred feet, Boss?" That got a slow head shake. "They see the finish line coming and it's part anger that it's over with, but it's also joy and relief that it's over with. That's what I saw in his eyes tonight. Even at the office."
"That's still standard but you're right, he needs to be pulled from the field for a while."
"I doubt he'd let you, unless the whole town was covered. I think we'll find that someone might have before and the kid went behind their backs to do it anyway, probably because whoever was taking his place wasn't doing a good enough job," he said quietly. "He's not going to be here forever. He said he wants to take whoever's killing him with him but he'll be mad if it's a human."
Gibbs nodded at that. "Next chance I get, I'll talk to the kid. I'll also demand that Ducky look him over to make sure he's fit for combat."
"Do you think it'll matter?" a female voice said from beside them. They both flinched, neither having heard her come in. "Magic is very handy when you're strong enough to teleport," she offered with a grin. "Agent DiNozzo."
"Miss Rosenburg. Boss, this is Willow Rosenburg. She's Xander's partner. Willow, this is my boss, Agent Jethro Gibbs."
"Agent Gibbs," she said with a grin, shaking his hand. "Xander's a funny subject to think about, but he'll do what's necessary. He always has. Otherwise he wouldn't have been in the hellmouth with us while injured." Gibbs looked a bit concerned at that. She handed him some papers. "All the missing persons cases reported and where they were last. You've got someone building an army at the moment. I'm guessing they're going to have a turf war. The other stuff from Sunnydale will be in with Giles personally, who'll be in next Thursday. As for having someone give Xander a physical?" She snorted. "Good luck with that. Try sedation. I hear it's a nicer option than chains and handcuffs. Though, knowing Xander's past with Anya, he might not mind handcuffs. One never knows what Xander will pull outta his butt. Not even me and I've known him since we were five. There's still a lot *I* don't know about Xander and no profiler anywhere has ever managed to figure him out. They wanted him to think about disability after he got so injured, before the last fight in Sunnydale, and he wouldn't. He will go out fighting some day. That day won't be this week however."
"Maybe he should step back," Gibbs told her. "That way he can ease back into a more normal routine and let someone handle some of the fighting with him."
"We thought about that when we realized he was doing more hunting than Buffy was because she was having problems. It didn't quite work that well. He went out and did it anyway without telling us. We only knew thanks to the rumors he nearly got shived one night on his own stake. Buffy went to yell at him and he slammed the door in her face and went back to bed. Xander is a stubborn creature of habit, like most humans, but he's taking it to a whole new level. We used to hunt as a group until we were stupid and tried to send him off for his own good. We haven't been a groupy group since the year in that journal he gave you." She grimaced a bit. "Xander isn't a lone wolf, but he can be if you make him or let him. Here, he's about the only hunter. Therefore he has to be. I'd rather he not go out alone but I can't hunt half as well as he can and I'll be damned if I'm dying this year when I'm finally starting to heal." They both nodded. "It's also safer to hunt in groups. How you'll do that with where he goes, I'm not sure," she admitted, looking at Gibbs again. "You're a military guy though, so you can hopefully plan about as good as Xander." She pulled a CD out and held it up. "What we know. Which I admit is about half of what he's done."
"Your group started to fall apart and he did it anyway?" Tony suggested, sitting down again. She nodded. "Why?"
"Because we were so stupid," she sighed, shaking her head. She sat down next to him. "Imagine this. You've only got four friends in the entire world. You have one who used to be a friend and is still around annoying you and you feel lust for her. You're a geeky, jokey guy who likes to play pranks. Now, you stake your only male friend, your only female friends end up being special beings with special powers and finding their own lives while you're dating the former friend that you have lust for and she's constantly belittling you along with your friends who don't want you to get hurt and feel a tad bit superior for having special skills. What do you do?"
"You either leave the area totally or you find a way to become someone they like more," Tony said.
She nodded. "Xander did the second. If we had known, we would've stopped him. Mostly because we thought he'd get hurt and we undervalued him all the time. It wasn't until graduation that I saw Xander as useful again. That was about a year and a half after I started my superiority complex with Buffy because I had magic, she was a slayer, and he was a normal human guy who liked to tell jokes and laugh." She grimaced. "And it was all our fault and Giles helped. We still do at times. Sometimes we just can't help it. When Giles gets here, you're going to see a radical personality shift whenever he's in the room. Xander's got a firm set of behaviors he practices in front of him. He won't spar with him in the room. He'll end up tripping if he's watching him fight. He does that to me too." She looked at Gibbs again, noticing he looked worried.
"That's why I'm here. I can't help him. I'm already way too far down that path and much too tired from energy draining stuff like magic to backtrack and rebuild ten years of friendship I've already lost. Or even the last few years when I was treating him like a lesser being because he's normal." She stood up. "You guys don't have a past history with him. You can both see useful people and see where they can fit into the group. By using his talents that he won't tell me about, it'll make him a happier person again. 'Cause let's face it, he's not a happy guy anymore. Not since he was eighteen and kept the school from exploding one night. Just don't use him. We did that a few times too and it only made it worse. I'll let you get back to talking about him behind his back. Ask him how much magic he knows please? I don't want him following my path."
"He said he can't touch the energies you do," Tony told her.
"Good. That's always safer. He's also got more focus so he won't be making mistakes like I did. I'm hoping I've been a good learning experience for him." She grinned and disappeared.
Gibbs took the journal back and sat down to read it. "If and when we go hunting, we are hunting in teams. She's right, that's only smart. We'll figure out who goes with who once we're trained, make it the teams that work best together."
"Sure, Boss," he agreed. "Can't the kid just have friends? He's a nice guy."
"He may not have any, DiNozzo. Not everyone makes friends like you do. Some people don't like other people," he noted dryly, staring him down. "I'm guessing the kid's like that too." He went back to reading, his heart sinking every few pages. This was when the former group had started to go so wrong. He could trace the beginnings. He looked up and Tony was gone so he got more coffee and went back to reading. If he was working with the kid, he wanted some idea of what he could do.
Xander smirked as he answered the door, nodding everyone inside. "All the way to the top, people." He waited until Tony jogged inside. "Upstairs to the top." He closed and locked the door. "Willow, I'm going to spar!" he called.
"Have fun with that. Don't break anything, we can't afford to replace it."
"I know." He walked up the stairs, stretching and rolling his shoulders as he went. "Sorry, I was already working out today." He cleaned up his towel and drink bottle, then put it aside and waved a hand at the practice dummy. "Okay, this is set up at general heart height. The red square is the only place you can hit. It seems easy, but with a moving target it's much harder. Since the heart is only as big as your fist, a slimmer stake is usually more handy, but more fragile. You've got to have a balance." He pulled one out of a nearby bucket and tossed it to Ziva. "Since I'm guessing you've got the most skills in fighting. Go ahead."
"Throw or otherwise?"
"No, stab. Throwing is nice but unfortunately whatever's lodged in the vampire's chest goes with him and therefore your weapon is now dust." She nodded, moving closer to stake, wincing at the angle. "Most of the slayers, all girls, prefer a backhand approach." He took it from her and showed her. "That gets them rushing and you present as a smaller target. I like to get them after they've passed me by. I prefer a rush and side attack, then stake from behind because it's safer for me." She nodded again. "Pretty Boy?" He tossed him the stake. "You've seen me in action before. Go for it." He walked up and did a nice overhand. "Ah, the advantages of height. A good approach if you can mange it." He looked at Ziva. "On the ground is a good time to do that but if you can manage it standing up, go for it. Whatever works for you." She nodded. "Gibbs, do you know how to knife fight?"
"I do actually," he admitted, moving closer. He palmed the stake and stabbed backhand as well. "It's a firmer grip."
"Good. That's the main skills you'll be using. Knife fighting is just like stake fighting only with a knife you have more area. Now, some people can use both. Little injuries can annoy, distract, and compromise your opponent. Not always, but sometimes it works. I usually use a bare hand and stake approach. Punching with the stake adds a bit to the force of your punch." He took the stake back and hit the dummy in rapid succession. They all nodded. "So we need to work on your hand-to-hand skills and move staking into it. Whatever method you fight dirty with."
"Fight dirty?" Ziva asked.
"I'm not going to give them a *fair* fight," he said dryly, staring her down. "When you're faced with an enemy and it's your life against theirs, you won't be giving them any advantages or else you'll die. Right?" She nodded, getting that part. "Then you use whatever you have to. Fighting dirty is like fighting fair, only you win."
"I fight like that most of the time."
"Good! Excellent even. You work with Gibbs, let's watch them for now?"
"Why don't you and she work together and we'll watch the master?" Tony suggested.
"Because, Pretty Boy, I now have bruised ribs and I don't want a trip to the ER tonight." He looked at Gibbs. "I'm waiting on the pain killers to kick in."
"You could just direct."
"I'm not like that. I'm an in-your-face commander. A field general." He shrugged. "I always have been." Then he grinned. "Go for it. Take one of them, Ziva." She nodded and attacked Tony, smirking at him. He ducked her swing and got her from behind, making her crash into a wall. She smirked back and took off after him again. "Remember, Pretty Boy, you're trying to get her on her back or out of action or hit her just right with the stake." Tony foot-swept her and knocked her down, following to hit her lightly on the chest. "Good job!" He grinned at Gibbs. "Can you fight without hurting her?"
"Probably. I have some control, kid."
Xander just grinned and got some nerf stakes he had made, tossing him one. "Then let's go. I can move without too much pain now." The senior agent just looked at him. "I don't take days off unless I'm I traction, too drugged to move, or just out of surgery and need the stitches to close a bit more so I won't pop 'em. Come on."
Gibbs took off his jacket, taking back up his nerf stake and lunging. Xander ducked one swing, tagged him with his free hand, ducked another swing to the side, then got behind him and staked him. Gibbs turned to look at him and Xander grinned. "Nice work."
"Thanks. Don't hold back next time. I'm not that bad. No matter what she told you when she 'ported over last night." He smirked a bit and turned, attacking Ziva, who had to lunge to get her own stake. He snickered when he saw the real one. "That's fine. I haven't been hit with my own stake in years." She growled and attacked harder, going for real now. He was holding his own until he seemed to stumble and grabbed his ribs. She laughed and lunged, he came up and got her in the heart, then kissed her on the cheek. "Fighting dirty, Ziva. It's a good thing." She looked stunned, then at Gibbs. "Remember, these creatures are faster and stronger than you. Five to ten times faster and stronger than you. You can't match 'em move for move. You've got take it when you can get it. You've also got to use whatever advantage you have over them. Height, weight, getting them from behind if you have to. It's all the same if you're going to live and they aren't." He got up and looked at Tony, who backed off shaking his head. "You think you can't?"
"I know I can but I need to brush up on my skills."
"That's fine. Work with her, for real this time, and brush up that way." He tossed Tony the nerf stake and got Ziva one as well. "There."
"How much pressure does it take to shove a stake into a heart?" Ziva asked.
"Depends on how blunt it is. Their skin is a bit more fragile than ours. Not as elastic. Most vampires rise post rigor so the elasticity's gone. It's not as thin as tissue paper unless they haven't been feeding at all. Fledges can be that way now and then. If you've got a good stake with a good point it's like knifing someone. If you've got a weak stake or a blunter point it's like trying to shove a branch through the tree." She nodded, understanding that. "A note I'm going to put out now. If you're religious, you need to take communion each week. Any time that you might be hunting. It'll give you some protection if they happen to get you and start to bite. For those who aren't religious they lose that advantage and I've made a wonderful holy water cocktail for them each time we go out. Sports drink or in the liquor of their choice. Personally, I prefer orange vodka." He shrugged. "It helps to have a shot, otherwise you're way stiff at first. Another good reason to go to the clubs, to loosen up first." He looked at Ziva again. "Can I come to you for translations on some of the texts in Hebrew that are above my level?"
"You speak Hebrew?"
"No, I read Hebrew, Summerian Geek, Latin, Hieroglyphics, and about six demon languages well enough to make due with only looking up words every now and then. I've basically got the majority of the language down but sometimes tense shifts and the more scientific or obscure phrases get to me."
"They have languages?" Gibbs asked.
"Yeah. Not the vampires but some of the other demons do. Some of them have been great scientists and builders. Those are the sort that don't usually hunt to kill and they're safe from me. One of my favorite stories is in one of the more common demon languages. I've got the book downstairs." He grinned at Ziva again. "I found a really nice text hidden in the bottom of a trunk the other day that dealt with love magic. It's in Hebrew and I'm having tons of trouble with some of the flowery, poetic language. Wanna help?"
"If you want. How old is it?"
"About two thousand years old. It's a copy." He held out a hand and concentrated, bringing the book to him. He grinned and handed it to her. "See?" He looked at Tony and Gibbs again. "Okay, you two face off. Everyone should be at her level or higher before I go to work tonight."
"Should I call you off?" Willow yelled.
"Okay. Ducky's here!"
"Send him up!" He grinned at them. "Ambushing me with the doctor?" Gibbs nodded, smirking a bit. "Fine. I understand the need for routine physicals."
"Good. What happened to your ribs?"
"I slipped last night on my bike. Ran into a mailbox." He grinned at Ducky as he came in. "Come on in."
"Thank you. This is very nice."
"I try," he offered with a bright grin. "So, are you just here for me?" He nodded. "Then we can do that in the empty apartment. You guys work together on this stuff. Ziva, please don't damage the book." He walked Ducky across the hall, closing the door and doing a silencing charm on it. "Sorry, a bit paranoid." He took off his shirt and saw the wince and heard the hiss. "I took on something about ten-foot-tall last night," he said quietly. "It had seven arms. It also had four coeds in them." Ducky just nodded. "I told them I hit a mailbox."
"Ah. Well, come sit. I noticed there's furniture." Xander pulled a chair over from the dining room table and sat down. "Thank you." He pulled open his bag and came over to start with the usual test, the cross to the forehead. Xander did wince. "Headache?"
"Yeah, throbbing pain," he admitted. "You'll probably find out why soon enough." Ducky nodded and got to work, only stepping back once. "Not one word," he ordered quietly.
"You'll have to tell whoever you hunt with."
"Not necessarily. I'm doing okay with my compensation. It's been less than a year."
"No wonder you still get headaches." He shook his head and got back to work, making sure the boy was fit for combat, which he wasn't. "You're a bit thin and you're tired, Xander. You shouldn't be going out."
"Tough, Ducky. You know me better than that."
"True. Where are your medical records?"
"In my apartment in my safe. Why?"
"I'll need them to keep track of you, my dear boy. Just in case you know." He stared him down. "I should also protest you fighting in this condition. You're not fit to fight."
"I"m fine to fight, Ducky." He stood up. "I'm handling it okay. I did my own rehab and all that stuff. Believe it or not, the bike helps more than driving does." That got a small smile. "I'm fine. Really. Just a bit sore. Besides, I had a vacation when we came out here and while we were detoxing. Only three small battles during that two weeks."
Ducky rolled his eyes and looked up. Then at the boy. "You're worse than Jethro."
"I may be, but I'm also more needed. They get time off when they're injured. I don't."
"Good point. A word of advice. The director saw one of the files being looked over and wanted to know why. McGee had to go with your explanation of the cult that's working in the city. She wanted to know why we were doing it and he referred her to Jethro. He's not going to be happy when he gets that call soon."
"Sure." He grinned. "So can I go?"
"Once you get me that file, young man."
Xander nodded, going to get it for him. He came back and handed it over. "Gibbs, he said that your boss is onto the plan."
"I heard. She's not a happy woman at the best of times and isn't sure what's going on now." He looked at Ducky. "Is he fit?"
"He's a bit tired and in need of a good dinner or ten, but he'll be fine. What are you taking for your headaches?"
"Vicodin. It's the nectar of the Gods," he said dryly, smirking at him.
"There's better out there."
"Yes, but it leaves me fuzzy headed. I can cope with a headache."
"Fine. I'll see what I can recommend that's better for you. Any other problems with that issue?" Xander slowly shook his head. "Very well then. I'll keep this in my case, like I do Anthony's and Jethro's since they seem to get hurt so much. You and young Anthony should talk. He got the plague."
"Really? I got given temporary syphilis by one of the ghosts attacking us on thanksgiving one year. Fortunately we got them to move on and they took it with them."
Tony just blinked at that. "I got to sleep under blue lights in quarantine," he said finally.
Xander grinned. "That's cool. Quarantine's got to be more quiet." Tony nodded. "Then it's all good. Gibbs, there, see, I'm fine."
"Yeah, don't you get those from Fluffy and Abby playing in the lab?" he asked with a grin.
"Yes, but not every day. Ducky, is it a tumor?"
"No, Jethro, nothing that serious. He's more healing from something in the recent past. The headaches are to be expected and I'll be doing a more in-depth look at that problem in a few days, Xander."
"Of course, Ducky." He blew a kiss. "You wanna show 'em how to throw a stake?"
Ducky smiled and shook his head. "I haven't practiced in years. I'm afraid I've almost lost that skill." He smiled at him. "Do try to behave. Be safe and all that."
"We try," Xander agreed.
"Fine, then I'm going home, Jethro. The bodies have quit coming in since the local bases have canceled leave for the time being." That got a nod so Ducky left, going down to chat with Willow for a few minutes. She was always happy to talk to him.
"Injury?" Gibbs asked.
"Before the last fight in Sunnydale. I'm fine. Just finishing the healing."
"That was how long ago?" Tony asked.
"Um, four months." He grinned. "I'm fine. Really. It's all good here." He grabbed his real stake and backed up, then threw it sideways at the target, making the shot. "That is how you throw a stake. Doing it like a knife means it'll bounce off. You need the added strength." The stake fell. "Now, it won't go very deeply inside, so you usually want to follow it up by kicking or shoving it in harder while they're staring at it. Because they almost always do look down at it." Everyone nodded and got back into the flow of things.
Gibbs walked into the office, finding his boss at his desk. "You needed something?"
"Whose files are those?"
"Which ones? The Initiative? It's an open case. We think. It was a covert group and they're trying to dance around it right now. The computer files on the demons? That's a cult that's running around and killing people, including our rash of dead soldiers downstairs."
"And the profile on one Alexander Lavelle Harris?"
"He's an expert on them. He was raised around them and he's been fighting with them in California. We ran into him on another case and saw him dealing with them."
"Are these Goth kids playing games?" she demanded.
"No. They like to eat Goth kids for lunch. These are some psychotic bastards who're killing and injuring people. We've already got at least ten dead and another twenty missing soldiers, plus the civilians they've gotten. The local cops aren't quite ignoring it but they're backed up and since we're working on it anyway, we might as well do most of it. Harris has been walking us through their methodology all day."
"They believe they're vampires?"
"They live totally on blood, Jen. Well, he said a few like to mine their blood with things like cereal and crackers, but they live totally on blood. They're a cult. They think the Goth subculture is cute and fluffy. These people believe in torture, rape, burning live bodies, and using animals as poker chips for fun." She shuddered at that. "They've already killed at least ten soldiers. This is an open case that we're working on. It's not going to be over quickly and we've figured out how to let some people know that they're out there without creating a mass panic and shutting down the entertainment industry in town."
"They go to movies?"
"Yeah, and they go to clubs to hunt too," he said dryly. "Harris has managed to save some of their victims but he can't kill them all."
"We're killing them?" she asked, looking horrified.
"They've got a kill or be killed mentality, Jen. If we don't protect ourselves, they'll just take us as dinner instead. I don't feel like going to another funeral this year, do you?" She shook her head quickly. "Good. Then we've got it under control at the moment. Right now we're gathering facts about what they do and know. It's like a whole subculture with splinter groups at the moment." It was true, that was as close as he would ever come to anything she would understand. "The first cult spread and some of the 'kids' broke off to go gather more members. There's members all over the world but there's a large gathering here. Before we only had a few so they slipped under the radar. Now they're using our city as their home base and it's creating more havoc."
"How long before we can kick them out?"
"We're hoping to have this section of the group either eliminated or locked away within two years. There's at least eighty members at the moment locally plus the national and international members of the group. We're doing good just to stop them from hunting at the clubs they like to go to. Speaking of, I've got to remind Abby to be more careful when she goes out to play." He frowned for a moment and called her. "Abby, Gibbs. Yes, I know you know my voice. No, be more careful when you go out. Yeah, that cult is gathering strength from what he's noticed. Eighty members strong and you know how much they like to pick on your circle of friends. Sure. Keep your phone handy." He hung up before she could get mushy. "Anything else?"
"What group was the covert one?"
"The Initiative. It was a Pentagon program to force behavior modification and experimentation on soldiers. Most of them are gone. Some of their subjects lost it and killed most of them. They were in Harris's old town so he handed those over willingly, including what a hacker friend of his found. We're looking for any remaining members we can charge and into one incident in particular where we can prove they had human subjects and tortured them."
She shuddered. "Fine. Can your team work regular cases as well?"
"Yeah. This is mostly after hours and fact hunting at the moment. McGee's not involved. Harris didn't think he could take a kill or be killed situation very well and told him so to his face. He's agreed to stick to the normal stuff he does. If we get too involved or hurt, he can do a bit more on the team. He's not that new."
"Fine. Is there a high probability of getting killed?"
"Only if we're not fast enough."
"Are they funding terrorist cells?"
"We're not sure yet. He didn't rule it out. See, these people want power and to rule the world. Typical villain stuff. It's part vampire mythology, part fantasy villain mythology, and part psychotic behavior and believing they're consorting with demons mythology. At the very least it's a very interesting study. They've even somehow managed to program themselves into being allergic to wood and holy items. They don't like to attack around strong churches, things like that. They've also included some of the Wiccan stuff you find floating around in the new age sections of the bookstores."
"That's ...very complicated."
"They've been doing this for centuries. We just take more notice now."
"Could they be where the myths started?"
"He thinks so," he admitted. "I don't deal in that. I deal more in history when it relates directly to the current situation. "
"Was he a member?"
"No, he was raised in a town that had a thriving population and he's been avoiding them since the age of fifteen. He's been hunting them down to save some of their victims as well. Interestingly enough, Ducky's nephew used to work with the kid. He'll be here in a few days to visit."
"That's nice," she decided. "Fine. Keep me informed somehow. Are you working this like a cell? I noticed you had Ziva helping."
"I do and she is. We're not sure if it'll help. Some of these people are so underground they've had fake death certificates made for them." She looked impressed with that. "We'll tell you whatever we can but this is probably going to end up being a covert fight. It's not like you can fight vampires in the open."
"Good point. Just keep me informed and tell me if it's picking up so I give you easier cases." She looked him over. "Were you hit?"
"I was training with Harris earlier. I had all of us up there. He's actually had two or three that demanded to be staked. He was showing us the various method's he's used. Including a very nice pure silver battle axe."
"Okay." She shrugged. "Is he mental too?"
"He's an eight year combat veteran, Jen. He goes out about every night to hunt these things and save some of the victims. He's seen more combat than my whole team, combined, even if we add in Kate's years." She shuddered again. "I'll let him have his quirks."
"Very well. I'm going to go home and forget about this conversation." She left, passing by the young man in leather on the way in. "Most of the agents are gone," she told the guard.
"He's here to see Special Agent Gibbs, Madam Director," he offered.
"Is that Mr. Harris?" The boy looked up and nodded. "I see. That's not... the standard outfit we see around here." The boy was wearing a button down shirt and leather pants and had a leather biker jacket over it. "He's in the bullpen." She walked in, shaking her head. She did see the bike but she ignored it for now. Vampire hunters riding motorcycles was just too much for her. Even if he had been cute.
Xander took his visitor's pass and headed to the elevator, smiling a bit. He got off and walked over there. "Why did your boss just look at me like I was jelly toast? Is she going to be the next dangerous woman who wants my butt?"
Gibbs looked at him, then looked him over. "Going out?"
"With Abby. She wanted me to meet someone. I came to bring you this," he said, handing over the stake. "It's got flakes of silver embedded. In case you run into something that's reactive that way instead. Just don't lose it. It's a pain in the ass to make those."
"Sure. Thanks, kid." He looked him over. "What injury?"
Xander snorted. "It's nothing."
"It's not nothing if you're still healing."
"I'm almost healed. I just have a few headaches now and then. Nothing that'll endanger your people."
Xander rebooted the CD and typed in a special password that only he had, pulling up a video file he had made. He used the remote to zoom in on him. "You tell me, Gibbs. That was a week afterward." He handed the remote back, watching himself fight. "Not too bad to be without pain killers and only a shot of whiskey for it."
Gibbs looked at him, then stopped the video, canceling it off the screen. "What was that?"
"The last battle in Sunnydale. Right before the town went...." He spit. Then he grinned. "That was a week after I got injured."
Gibbs nodded at that. "Fine. It won't put my team into harm but if you think it's necessary you will tell whoever you hunt with."
"Sure. Did you want me with Ziva or Tony?"
"Tony. You actually know his name?"
"I have known his name since the second day there. He didn't introduce himself at first." He grinned sweetly. "He's so fun to play with and yank." He straightened up as the elevator dinged and Abby came off with McGee. "A double date, Abby?" he teased.
She looked him over, then grinned. "You'll definitely do." She smiled at Gibbs. "We're going out. Wish him luck on his date."
"Better luck than you had before, kid."
"Thanks, I usually need it." He followed her down, getting onto his bike. McGee looked longingly at it. "Not unless you know how to ride," he ordered calmly. "My baby!"
"I wasn't going to ask." He got into his car, then got out to let Abby into his car and got back in to drive. "Do you know where we're going?"
"No. I can follow you though." That got a nod and the guy pulled out so Xander put on his helmet and followed. It was a nice goth club, very clean and respectable looking outside, and inside it was like a velvet parlour. Not a *club* club but a place to meet and greet and chat about the day before you went clubbing. The bouncer looked at him then shuddered. He pulled out his silver cross. "Abby's setting me up with a friend. I'm Xander." He grinned. "Please?"
"There's two real ones inside," he noted quietly.
"I figured there might be. If I catch them hunting, they go woosh." That got a nod and the door opened, letting him inside. He smiled at the bartender, walking over. "What's good?"
"We've got a house special called Mary's Handbasket. Brandy in a bloody mary."
Xander considered it and shook his head. "I'm not a brandy guy. How about a glass of red wine?" She smiled and got him one, so he paid her and walked over to where Abby and McGee were sitting, curling up beside her with one foot on the seat. "So, friend?" he asked, scanning the club.
She slapped him on the thigh. "No hunting."
"I wasn't planning on it but there's two in here," he said, subtly pointing at them. "Them. Very old by the outfits." He looked at her and grinned. "Wanna dance?"
"Oooh, no. I can't waltz."
He shrugged. "That's fine. Fluffy, you wanna dance?"
He bit his tongue so he wouldn't snap about the nickname he had. "She'd get mad at me."
Xander grinned. "Abby?"
"Go ahead." She smiled as Xander got up smoothly and took her man out to dance with him. She noticed the two vampires stalking closer and groaned. Xander blew a kiss at one and the other one oh so unsubtly ran for the door. The other moved over to take McGee's place and Xander said something to her, making her kiss him then leave more leisurely. She shook her head as her poor stunned man was pulled closer again and they went back to dancing. Xander was just such an alpha male sometimes. She sipped her wine, squealing when her friend came in. She gave her a hug and noticed right away that she was colder than it was outside. "Oh, no." She nodded. "Oh, shit, I set you up with Harris."
"I'm not hunting. I'm leaving tomorrow," she promised.
"That's fine. Just don't eat me or Tim or Xander. Xander!" He walked McGee back to some applause, making the young agent blush and Xander just grin. "Xander, this is Melodia. Melodia, this is Xander."
He leaned down to take her hand and kiss the back of it. "Charmed, my lovely one," he purred. She moaned and wiggled. "You have no fear of me if you're not hunting."
"Thank you. You're adorable dressed as one of us."
He sat next to her, smiling coyly. "I find that leather suits my darker and baser instincts. Would you care to dance?" She nodded and let him escort her out there, pleasingly fitting in his arms. "Relax, like I said, you're safe with me," he whispered in her ear. "The other two fled. One danced with me and offered to leave the city for her safety and the other just ran." She giggled at that. "If you're serious about not hunting, there's a Master in LA who can instruct you in what you need to know."
"I heard. Angel?" He nodded. "Do you know where?" He whispered the address in her ear. "Thank you." She smiled and danced on with him. "I'd usually be hinting by now about clubbing later," she offered.
"I've been known to do that," he agreed happily. "And more. Even on a first date. Life's too short not to take advantage of the happies." She giggled and nodded, leading him back to the table to get her purse. "We're going somewhere a bit less genial," he offered in another imitation of Ducky's voice. "We shall see you later, my dear. And you, Fluffy." He walked her out. "Did you drive or would you like to ride behind me?"
She giggled and got on behind him, squeezing him tightly as he took off.
Xander knocked on Tony's door later that night, holding up a small case. "Your supplies."
"How did you know where I live?"
"You're in the phone book."
"You are in the one Willow looked in, which would probably be at your work I admit." He grinned and wiggled the case. "All the stuff you'll need."
"Fine. It's not like I have a date." He got out of the way so he could come inside.
"I had one of those earlier. She's on her way to LA, I dropped her off at the airport." He followed him inside. "Good technique. Remember that on delivery drivers. I don't know how many I staked who were doing that job." He opened the bag on the table, pulling out some things. "Okay, the blue vials are simple holy water. You toss them on some things and they burn and scream, and usually try to run away. The red topped vials are holy water that you drink. Either in a sports drink or a bit of liquor," he said, looking at him. "Before you go out. I make the stuff by the gallon so whenever you run out just tell me." He pulled out a few stakes. "Most of these are normal ones. The one that looks like it's got glitter has embedded silver. Lose this and I'm making you help me make your next one. It's a pain in the ass to do but it's a handy thing to have because silver kills about forty percent of these sort of things and wood kills at least another twenty." Tony nodded once at that so he moved on. He pulled out a box and held it up. "I'm assuming here but you use a nine?"
"Yeah, why?" He took the bullets and looked at them. "Silver?"
"The top tray. The bottom is hardwood. A lot easier from a distance." He held up the squirt gun, getting a small grin for the toy. "It's silly but having one on me has saved my ass a lot." He looked in the bag and found the last thing. "This number, in case Willow or I go, is to be called only as a last resort. This will connect you with one of the senior slayers or her trainees. I hope you never have to meet Faith, but if you do, we'd better already be dead. Not turned, dead." That got a nod and he looked it over. "It's a sat. phone and it's got voicemail, or so she said. Giles pays for it for her." He handed over the bag. "For the car. You can use the drinking holy water if you want, but it's not as strong. Any questions?"
"Why for in the car?"
"Because sometimes you go out to dinner and you don't want to carry and leave that stuff up here. Besides, you aren't always here."
"Good point. My car's usually with me. Are the others getting theirs?"
"I gave them to Abby not twenty minutes ago." He stepped back. "Now all you need to do is to learn how to hunt and practice a lot. Gibbs seems to think I'm getting you as my partner."
"Ah, the other reason you came over. I still like women."
Xander snorted. "Not that sort of partner, Pretty Boy. Get over my ass. It's cute but I'm straight too. No matter how much you protest too much." That got a small blush. "Good. Did you want to go tonight?" He shook his head. "That's fine. The bar was broken into so I've got tonight, tomorrow, and the next night off. Whenever you're ready or else you're going to have to have a day off afterward because I don't get off work until three."
"Why do you work as a bartender?"
"Because fighting all night and then going to do construction all day is tiring."
"Yeah, I guess it would be." He packed everything again. "Is the water pistol armed?"
"No, but there's a larger jar of holy water in there for refills. If you know a priest who'll bless some for you, go for it." He grinned. "I'm off to go have fun at a club. You have my number?" That got a nod. "Cool." He headed out, going back down to his bike. Abby knew to tell Gibbs to arrange for hunting times with him and when he had free. She had a copy of his schedule for the next few weeks even. He heard his phone ring just as he started his bike and sighed, stopping it to answer it. "Yeah?" He listened. "No, Abby, I'm not taking Fluffy out hunting. Abby, sweetie, do we think he can stake someone for real?" he asked patiently. "Yeah. Seriously. If he wants, he's gotta ask Gibbs and if he tries it himself, I want you to kick his ass. Got me here?" He grinned. "Good." He hung up and restarted his bike, heading for the clubs he liked. Hard, heavy, pulsing through your body music. And hey, a few vamps in the crowd but he didn't mind them at all.
Ducky looked up as Gibbs walked into his lab the next Tuesday. "Jethro, I don't believe I have anything for you today. What brings you down?"
"McGee didn't come in. Have you heard from him?"
"Oh, didn't I tell you? He decided to go out hunting on his own," he said dryly, staring at him. "He got a bit nibbled on and Abigail managed to save him I believe. I checked his neck wound but he was a touch dizzy today. I thought for sure I had called you."
"You may have, my voicemail is on the blink again," he admitted. "He okay?"
"Just fine. He just needed to rest and eat. I suppose he felt left out. Either that or it's in reaction to what Xander calls him."
"Well, he is Fluffy," Gibbs complained. "He's also a dumbass." He walked off to call and yell at his agent. He glanced in Abby's lab and saw she had a visitor so went in there. "Harris."
"Gibbs. We're uploading the new tracking system so we can plant a tracker on someone and have them lead us back to their home base."
"Before you ask, I haven't told him about McGee," Abby complained.
"Fluffy did what?"
"He went out hunting," she said, glaring at him. "I don't know why, but apparently he wanted to prove he could do it."
"Is he dead or turned?"
"I managed to get to him before he was drained. Then I yelled at him for the next three hours while Ducky worked on him. He knows what an idiot he is."
"Make him drink the holy water as well," Xander sighed. "It'll make it so no one wants to finish him off. They can smell a prior victim."
"They scent mark like cats?" she asked. He nodded. "I guess that's kind cool."
"More like bragging rights." He looked at Gibbs. "Did you get your kit?" That got a nod. "When am I taking you out?"
"Tonight good for you? I'm avoiding an award banquet for our director."
"Sure, good for me. Who's going in your place?"
"Ziva." He smirked. "Usually it'd be DiNozzo but I heard he had a date." He shrugged. "I wouldn't want to bring someone to one of those. Is it working?"
"So far and if I could get Willow to let us officially test it, we could make her millions." Abby pouted. "Gibbs, make her give me a new toy!" she whined.
"That would be too much like work, which she doesn't," Xander said dryly.
"She's not working?" Gibbs asked. Xander shook his head. "So you're supporting the both of you and that building?"
"Yuppers. Willow's still got magic fatigue and has problems staying awake most days so it's all on me."
"That sucks," Abby noted. "I wish Melodia hadn't moved to LA to learn how not to feed on people. You two were cute together."
"She's the sorta girl I want too," he agreed dryly. The door opened and the redhead from the other day came in. "Ma'am." He looked at the computer again. "Okay, I've got the tracker on a remote control car that Rais is playing with, or should be. Can you find it?"
She typed in the commands and a box appeared with an address, which moved a bit every few minutes. "Is that right?"
Xander checked. "No, she installed the map backwards."
Abby sighed and got to work switching the map around and replotting it. This time when she ran it it came up correct. She looked at the address, then at him. "You live there?" He nodded. "Why? Not the safest of places, Xander!" She swatted him on the arm. "You need to be more careful."
"I'm plenty careful but I had to be able to afford the building and it was for sale cheap." He stood up. "Okay. I'll try to implant a few of those tonight, see where they lead us. Gibbs, call me when you're ready and I'll tell you where I'm at." That got a nod. "You have the kit, right?" He nodded again, looking amused. "Good. Remember to drink the water." He kissed Abby on the head. "Behave and drink some caffeine for me too." He nodded at the other woman. "Ma'am." He left, getting stopped by Ducky, who handed him something. "What's this for?" He looked at the label. "Will it help?"
"It has in other cases. Try it when you get home, it can cause drowsiness." Xander nodded and grinned then headed for the elevator. "Such a whirlwind some days. I wonder if he had chocolate for breakfast again." He got back to work tidying up his morgue then sat down to note his activities for the day on his timesheet.
"Drink what water?" the director asked in Abby's lab.
"He found me a new mineral water to try. It's supposed to help with stress. I don't know why he thinks I'm stressed." Abby giggled at that and he noted the address. "The kid must be a few down the block," he noted quietly. "He's in 116." She nodded, writing that down as a note for herself. "What did you need, director?"
"I was looking for you to make sure you were coming tonight."
"I don't usually go to award banquets. You know that."
"I want you there. It's important your whole team is there."
"McGee's out sick today," Abby told her, turning to look at her. "He's really not feeling well. Spinning head and weak and mewling like a baby."
"Fine," she agreed, looking at the boss again. "I really would like to see you there, Jethro."
"If I can make it in time. I have something I need to do tonight."
"The boat can't wait?"
"It's not the boat, and no, it can't wait." He walked off, heading back to his desk. He looked at Tony, who looked miserable. "Your date cancel?"
"Yeah, Boss. She's now paranoid that she'll be eaten by our local cult." He looked at him. "How many more months?"
"Too many and there's plenty of other women out there." He looked up as the director walked past his desk. "New case?"
"Not yet. You're next in line." She looked at Tony. "You're coming tonight?"
"I had a date but she canceled, I'm not sure if I want to go stag or not. Why? Did you know someone who needed an escort?" he asked lightly, smiling at her.
"No. I was making sure the majority of the team was coming."
"I know Ziva said she'd be there," he offered. She nodded and walked off. "No way I'm going now," he muttered, getting back to work on a report.
Gibbs looked at him. "Did you know what happened to McGee?"
"No, but I notice he's strangely being silent and invisible," he quipped, looking at his boss. "Tell me he didn't." He nodded. "Alone?" Another nod. "Is he alive?"
"Abby took more of a chunk out of him than the person did."
"Good. Can we sic Harris on him?"
"No. That's mean and cruel. I'm not that much of a bastard."
"Fine. Any idea what's wrong with him that Ducky's hiding?"
"I have a clue but I'm not sure yet," he admitted. "I'm heading with him later, after the dinner. You?"
"Sounds good to me, Boss. That way he has to spend less time in there. You might want to bring ear plugs. It'll be loud and trendy music."
Gibbs snorted. "I do remember what clubs are like, DiNozzo. It hasn't been that long."
"If you say so. Where are we going?"
"He said to call and he'd tell us where he is." He got back to work, ignoring the message from his supervisor who was whining about him going to see her get an award. If he didn't show up for his, he wasn't about to show up for hers.
Xander looked over as the two men joined him, smiling brightly. "Welcome. You both drank the water, right?" They nodded. "Good!" He looked around again. "Okay, let's start with the basics," he offered, leading them to a place where they could overlook the floor. "Notice anyone odd?"
Gibbs looked and pointed. "There's one."
Xander studied her. "She's a succubus, Gibbs. Good choice though. Pale, out of date fashions." He nodded. "Good possibility. Pretty Boy?"
He looked and pointed at the guitarist. "Him?"
"Is," he agreed, smiling at him. "As are most of the band but the bassist." He pointed at one group. "There's a whole group together," he offered. They studied them then nodded, understanding why he had chosen them. "There's a few ways to do this. Directly or lurking outside."
"Direct means you lead them off?" Tony asked. Xander nodded. "That's probably a better way and won't look odd."
"True." He nodded and went down onto the floor, heading for the group of girls dancing together. He smiled at the one facing his way, matching himself to her. "Hi. What's your name?"
"Precious. You?" She smiled and moved closer, snuggling into his chest. "Do you have a name?"
"Al." He stroked her cheek and winked. "I was watching your little party pack. You guys are hot together. Are you just friends or more?"
"Friends. I can ditch them if you want."
He moved closer, putting his hands on her hips. She was warmer than he was but he could feel the demonic taint. He raised an eyebrow and suddenly got the clue. He let his darker side out and she moaned, making her friends look their way and attach themselves to him. "Ladies," he chided, smirking at them. "Why are we all here tonight?"
"Looking for you," one cooed, stroking up his chest. "We're initiating newbies. You could help us with that. After all, there's enough of you to go around."
He chuckled. "Anyanka used to say that too." That got a flinch from one of them. "I'm Xander."
"Alexander?" the girl he was dancing with said. He nodded. "Oooh. Pretty name. He was such a stud."
He kissed her throat. "But I'm on a hunt, baby, and only for the unliving kind. Maybe later?" She nodded and they peeled off. He went back to his students. "False alarm. More like Bethany." He turned and found one behind him so he kissed her, making her moan and then run off. "They like me. I'm a good food source." He looked around again, then found a target and went to dance with her. She was with a guy but split her attention between them. One of her friends came over and took him, and he knew she was a vamp. She was straight out of _Valley Girl_ and the eighties. He sent a smirk over his shoulder at Pretty Boy and let her walk him off, noticing which direction the friend went and that Gibbs was tracking her. He let her pull him into her arms and kissed her, making her moan and vamp out. He chuckled. "You're how old?" he taunted. "You never heard of the Sunnydale Crew?" She moaned and tried to lunge so he glanced around before staking her. "Thank you. It was good. Next time try for an inner thigh shot." He walked over her ashes and went to hunt the other one, finding Gibbs next to a bathroom. "She gone?"
"Too late," he said quietly.
Xander went in there to rinse out his mouth and looked at the guy. He checked his lips, blood. "Fuck." He glanced around then pulled out a small needle he had, plunging it into his chest. The vampire dusted and he walked out shaking his head. "They're fast. Cameras?"
"Two, I disabled them," Gibbs admitted. "Should we call someone?"
"For the pile of dust?" He shook his head. "Nope." He walked them off to get a drink and head to the quieter section to talk to them. "You okay?" he asked him once they were seated.
"I'm fine. I was hoping I'd be in time."
"They can do it in under two minutes, Gibbs. They're incredibly fast eaters." He sipped his shot, then finished it in one gulp. He pulled out his phone and called Willow, waking her. "Hey, me. We're at The Swampland and we're hunting some. You wanna join us in that special way?" he asked dryly. He grinned. "Thanks, dear. Yeah, I'll be by the bathroom." He hung up. "In case there was a hidden one. This place has been known to tape things for internet use. Mostly the rooms upstairs in the VIP lounge. It's never been a live feed but I don't want to take that chance." He looked at Tony, who looked a bit shaken. "You okay?"
"How can you be so calm?" he asked, looking at him.
"Eight years of doing this at least three times a week, if not more often. After a while you rationalize and you become numb." He ordered another round and paid for it. "Tonight, you don't rationalize, you think, you worry, you debate morals and faith, you have a moment of suicidal thoughts, and then you decide whether or not you can go on. That'll be the next few times and at one point you'll either realize it's not something you can do anymore and you snap, and possibly get eaten, or you snap in the other direction and realize what you're doing is good for everyone." A larger man came over to them and he looked at him, smirking a bit. "Sam. I thought you left the country."
"I did, but I cam back," he said, pulling a chair over. He looked at the boy. "I saw you."
"Yeah." He looked the boy over. "You look well rested. Better than the last time I saw you."
"The last time you saw me I still had a bandage on. Sorry about the poaching but with the new hellmouth here, I got called to duty."
"With your injury?"
"Yeah, with my injury. Did you see it making a difference?" He gave him a pointed look. "Is this a buffet?"
"No, I'd never do that. My brother runs the place and he's out sick. He doesn't know anything." He looked at the other two, then at the boy again. "Nice company you keep."
"It happens. Some idiot ate Naval personnel." Sam moaned at that. "Another reason I'm called upon to help. I noticed your pack of succuba. Nice touch."
"It's an easy first hunt for their pack." He smirked a bit. "You know I can't let you hunt here."
Xander patted him on the arm. "You know it won't stop me as well. The same as it didn't at the Bronze. The same as it didn't in LA."
"Good point. Fine. Just keep it down in here."
"There's only one of me. I've got to spread myself around some," he said dryly, smirking a bit more evilly. "Give me the better shots and heads ups about other places and I'll gladly go there."
The vampire considered it then nodded. "I've got a few enemies. You can have them and any you find otherwise. I know you're fair. Unlike the blonde."
"I heard. Sorry to hear about that. I heard she was the longest in centuries."
"Ever actually," Xander said proudly. "There's one coming in a few days."
"Crap. Fine. I'll send you heads ups when I hear about things and you only hunt here once every two weeks or so?"
"Done," he agreed, shaking his hand. "As long as you institute a no kill policy, especially of military personnel."
Sam chuckled. "I expected that clause. It's already done, kid." He stood up. "This round's on me. Your newbies look like they could use it. You might wanna talk to Bart as well. Black Bart's making quite a name for himself and nearly got an undercover cop." He left, summoning the waitress to get them a round.
"Bart's the guy at the club I work at," he noted before he could be asked. "I'll talk with him the next time I see him." He accepted his beer with a smile. "Thank you, dear." She nodded and hurried off. "He's even got minions working, I'm impressed."
"Is this one of their safe clubs?" Tony asked.
"No. Sam used to run the Bronze in Sunnydale, it was the only club in town. It's not quite a buffet, which is another word for their safe hunting clubs, but it's not quite not one either. I didn't realize it was like that here. This is only my third time in here. That does explain the band and the succuba though." He took a sip and grimaced. "Eww. Ale." He drank it anyway, it was free beer. He looked at Gibbs. "You're awfully quiet. I'm guessing that's a bad thing?"
"You're really relentless. Were you a terrier in your last life?" he teased, grinning at him. Gibbs snorted and smacked him on the back of the head. "Awww, I feel loved now," he cooed, making Gibbs crack and smirk back. He looked at Tony. "Doesn't he make you feel loved?"
"Many times a day usually. What injury? You were injured?"
"Yeah, very severely injured a while ago. I'm better now. I promise."
"There's no obvious amputations or fake parts," Tony said, looking him over. He stared into his eyes, then sat back. "How did that happen?"
"Really dirty fingernail. I'll tell you some night I'm feeling suicidal, okay?" He took another sip of his beer.
"What injury?" Gibbs asked Tony.
"Um...." Xander shrugged. "One of his eyes isn't natural, Boss. His left one."
Gibbs made the boy face him and looked. "It's not. That's a good job though. Almost a perfect match. Nice catch, DiNozzo."
"Thanks, Boss. Doesn't that hinder riding your bike?"
"Actually, it hindered driving but riding is a lot easier. Even if I didn't like the bike I'd still ride the bike, she's my baby." He finished his beer. "You wanna head to another spot or go home for the night?"
Tony looked at his watch then shook his head. "It's only ten. We've got work tomorrow."
"Have fun with that, so do I," he noted dryly. "Come on, I'll escort you out."
"You mean let one of us drive you home?" Gibbs demanded.
"I've had two shots and a beer, I'm not drunk. I can easily pass a breathalyzer." He walked them out, shooing the vampires in the alley off. They pounced and tried to drag them inside, and he let them so they weren't in the open, then he opened the can of whoop ass on 'em. Six were gone by the time he realized Gibbs was pinned to a wall and Tony was being stalked. He threw his stake at the one on Gibbs, then followed it with a kick. The vampire dusted and Gibbs panted, leaning on the wall. "You okay?" He pulled out another stake and jumped the one Tony was fighting, letting him get the one he could sense but not see. She turned to dust and he looked up, letting Tony help him off the ground. "You both okay?"
"I'm fine," Gibbs agreed. "I didn't realize how much stronger five times was." He rubbed his shoulder. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He looked at Tony, who shrugged at his stake. "At least you didn't get pinned."
"No, I didn't. I staked two of them."
"Congratulations! Better than I did my first night." He patted him on the back and grinned. "You probably shouldn't drive either. You're going to start shaking soon in shock."
"I've had to shoot in the line of duty," he admitted, looking at the kid.
"Then you've been there before," he agreed. "If you think you can, go for it."
"Boss, need a ride?"
"No I can drive," he assured them, still working his shoulder. Xander came over to check it. "I'm fine, just nearly dislocated. It'll be fine by the morning."
"Sure." He followed them out, looking behind him at the people coming out of the back of the club. Most of them ran back inside and he continued his escort duty. He got them into their cars then got onto his bike and headed home. It was a nice night for a drive, even though it was cold. He took a turn past the Mall then home since nothing was going on there. He found Tony on his doorstep and nodded him inside, taking him up to his apartment. "You okay?"
"It hit me on the way home," he said quietly.
"I understand. It does that to the best of us. You'll never forget your first time, no matter what it is." Tony nodded, accepting that. "Sit. Want something to drink or eat? Willow ran to the store for munchies."
"Sure. Any chips?"
"That's about what I seem to live on," Xander admitted, bringing back a few bags. He sat on the couch and turned on the tv, then handed Tony a soda.
Tony watched some of the drama, then looked at the guy beside him. "Did you ever need to just sit with someone?"
"Yeah, and there was never anyone there," he sighed, turning to look at him. "It's been a long time since I had someone to sit and be around. Since Jesse died."
"Your friend?" he asked quietly. Xander nodded. "I read the journal. I would've lied too." He ate a chip and handed back the bag.
Xander grinned. "I knew she couldn't beat him and even if it caused pain it was better than the alternative. I'm the sort of guy who does what I have to do and then I cry later." Tony nodded, accepting that. "At least you're not trying the other method of reconnecting."
"Hot sex? I'd prefer all night stands. It's better for me but it's too late to call anyone over." He took the bag of chips back and the boy hugged him, making him relax. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. It hits us all differently, Tony. If you don't want to go out again, I understand. Again, like military service, not everyone can handle it. I just hope I don't end up with a politician that's turned. I'd hate to have to run screaming from the secret service."
Tony laughed at that, snickering really. He gave the guy's head a nudge. "I doubt they'd let you run far and we'll handle that one ourselves." He smiled at the tv, then groaned. "I hate that reporter. The director's always sucking up to her."
"When I saw her 'oh please fuck me now I'm so pitiful' look at Gibbs' earlier, I almost asked him if he wanted me to find someone to eat her. He looked so pained."
"She's one of his exes. There was real pain there."
"I still don't take Gibbs for being a guy who digs through the trash for the leftovers."
Tony cackled, leaning on the guy's shoulders. "Oh, if you'd just use my name, I'd could hang out with you."
"Only if you're riding me into a happy dream," he quipped back, smirking at him. Then he blew a kiss. "Until then, you're still just Pretty Boy or Hot Ass. Sorry."
Tony laughed some more. "Fine. I can accept that I guess. Just not in front of the director, please. She'll make fun of me."
"She didn't say anything about me calling McGee Fluffy."
"No, but he's still mad about it."
"We all call people by different names. Remind him that plenty of peoples around the world believe that your true name should always be hidden, or else the people who know have power over you. I couldn't come up with one for Gibbs. He'd knock me out if I teased him that way."
Tony nodded, smirking now. "Oh, yeah! And he'd probably enjoy it too. Can I maybe get something non-sexual?"
"Well, you have stunning green eyes and a great smile, but if I mention those it'll really seem like we're dating to someone. Probably Fluffy."
"Fluffy wouldn't know what hit him if he saw two men together," he joked.
"You never know. I take him for someone who attempted it once but couldn't stand the entry pain the first time. He doesn't seem like he's anything but soft and squishy, a nice guy but not really strong emotionally."
Tony nodded. "He can be. He's also a very good hacker."
"Hey, if he and Abby break up, I'll introduce him to Wonder Wicca downstairs. They can talk computers."
"I'm sure they'll have fun." Tony grinned at him. "You're doing it to annoy him, aren't you?"
"Actually, I'm horrible with names. I learned to categorize them in my head by things like what I call you guys because I once called Cordelia by Buffy's name. Was the 'she never came to town' spell in there?"
Xander got up and got the other journal, finding that entry so he could read it. "After seeing the vampire me and Willow, I don't want to ever make that mistake again."
"You should try it in the middle of sex."
"Um, no thanks. I'm more of a baby, honey, love, more, bastard, more sort." He sat down again, taking the chips to get a few. Tony choked a moment later and he grinned at him. "Moved onto the love spell, didn't you? I skipped some time in there."
Tony looked at him. "I'd have loved each and every one I could."
"I thought about it, but even at seventeen I wasn't that good. Besides, I like to spend some time, not dipping my wick into every candle mold out there." He took the journal back and put it down. "What did Gibbs say about it?"
"Someone should have mentored the group back then and if the person who was doing it had been paying attention to anything he'd have seen all the problems and stopped them sooner."
"Giles was more concerned about Buffy, we all knew that. It's why Willow went towards magic and I got ignored." He shrugged. "It happens. It's not like I had someone to pay attention to me before."
"Good point." He started to say something else but an explosion went off outside. "That had better not have been my car."
"No," he said, getting up to look. "Not a car, the building across the street." He picked up the phone, dialing 911. "Hi, I'm at...."
Gibbs looked up as Tony walked into the office the next morning. "I called you last night to make sure you were okay."
"I ended up talking with Xander for a while, before his neighbor's drug lab went up." He sat down again. "I also got to peek at his next journal. He stopped doing it weekly and it skips almost six months. That's the one that shows when he changed." He tossed it over. "He wants the other one back with this one."
"Sure." He settled in to read it, then looked at him. "He did what?"
"Which what, Boss?" He looked at McGee as he stumbled in. "Fluffy, he said he's going to kick your butt for that." That got a wince. "How stupid are you!"
"That's my job," Gibbs noted. "McGee." That got another flinch. "How stupid are you! If they're strong enough to nearly take me and Tony together what the HELL makes you think you can take them on alone!" he shouted, standing up. McGee seemed to shrink in on himself a bit. "If an eight year combat veteran, a veteran of that war, can't fight them on his own, then you definitely can't!"
"Shut up, McGee. You're grounded to your desk until Ducky clears you for the field and you'd better pray that I never catch you doing such stupid crap again!"
"Yes, Boss. Sorry, Boss." He slunk downstairs to see Ducky. "I need medical clearance to go back into the field," he said weakly.
"Timothy, should you try to leave your desk today or tomorrow, I have a very thick strap with your name on it," he said firmly, glaring at the young man. "That was totally unnecessary and uncalled for! Do you know what would have happened to the unit if you had died! Or if I had to do your autopsy? Or Heaven's forbid and you were turned!" he finished loudly. "Go back to your desk before I paddle you like Jethro should!" He headed back to his desk. Ducky smiled and drank a bit of his water. He felt much better now. Abigail had been right, yelling was cathartic.
Gibbs was reading the journal again when he came back. "How many days?"
"At least today and tomorrow, Boss," he said quietly. "I'm sorry."
"Fine. Sit!" He went and sat. "You have things due to me? I want them."
"Yes, Boss." He got to work typing up his last few reports, making sure to grammar and spell check them so Gibbs wouldn't have an excuse to yell at him again. He only got up to hand them over. "Are you all right, Boss?" Gibbs looked at him. "You said you nearly got hurt last night."
"I'm fine, McGee. One wrenched my shoulder, that's all. Did you learn your lesson?" He nodded quickly. "And are you going to quit being so stupid?" He nodded again. "Good. Then I won't fire your ass for that." McGee went back to his desk and he looked at Tony, who was trying hard not to giggle out loud. "You, reports?"
"Many, many reports, Boss. All on the CD at home. Should I run home and get them?" he asked. "Or should I do that at lunch?"
"Lunch is fine. Did you finish analyzing those tapes, McGee?"
"I did, Boss, and that's in there too." He ducked his head back down again.
Tony smirked at him. "I did a location and records search on the personnel files, Boss. It showed that a third of the officers and scientists are still working within the Military somewhere. Most of them are listed as 'classified' but they can be found. Most of the foot soldiers were either dead, on that special UN project that Harris mentioned, or were unaccounted for after the disaster hit that base."
"Wonderful. Is that what we're calling it?"
"I'd call it a massacre, but I think it was justified for them to get the bastards who tortured them."
"Point. Is it still standing?"
"It was but it may not be after the, um, earthquake hit Sunnydale. I can call Harris and check."
"Please." He looked at him. "If so, I want schematics and things so we can prove it in court."
Tony nodded and made that call, getting told that it was still open and that Willow had most of those. He promised to have them sent to Abby. "Boss, he said when Rosenburg wakes up she'll send what she has to Abby, that way we can see if we need more or not."
"Fine. How long?"
"I'm not sure. She's still suffering detox fatigue, Boss." Gibbs looked at him. "You didn't hear about the energy stuff?" He nodded. "That."
"What fatigued her?"
"Oh, that's right, he only told me. Elevator, Boss?" Gibbs nodded, taking the journal with him. The elevator was the usual meeting spot for the team; he stopped it between floors and made sure there were no new cameras. Tony told him what the kid had said during their first talk together, including about Rosenburg. "That's why she's so tired and why he's the one supporting them."
"How is he supporting them on a bartender's salary?"
"He's buying the building so the mortgage is probably cheaper than rent. It seems like Willow's got cash every now and then but he doesn't. I don't know how he's doing it. Maybe some sort of insurance payoff for whatever was totaled in the blast? Maybe something from his eye?" He shrugged. "Not a clue, Boss."
"Find out. I don't want anything for anyone to gnaw on about this." He restarted the elevator and went down to bug Abby for a few minutes. "Did she send the...." She handed him a DVD. "What's this?"
"Their schematics of the base, taken from the base's security systems, and the various drawings used to plan the assault by Harris. She kept them all together."
"He planned it?"
"The basics. Then they did the spell and it was Buffy's job." She looked up at the camera she had found earlier then at him. "Their friend was critically injured during the first attempt. It's all in that file."
"Thanks. I yelled at McGee again for you."
"Awww, thank you." She gave him a hug. "Ducky promised to whip his ass with a strap."
Gibbs smirked at that and went back upstairs to run that information. He noticed Ziva's seat was still empty. "Where's David?" he asked.
"Called off," Tony admitted, holding up the slip. "While you were downstairs. She said she feels miserable and she'll see us later tonight." He looked at him and Tony looked back. "You don't think...." He glanced in McGee's direction and Gibbs scowled. "Sorry, Boss, but it's a thought. She's not that careful sometimes."
"Point." He took the message and looked it over. "It says she wasn't."
"Why would she volunteer that information?"
"I'll call her during lunch." He sat down and inserted the DVD. "McGee, how do I run this thing?" His assistant came over to start it for him, watching the slideshow with him. "How do I pause?"
"Just like on the VCR, Boss." He used the mouse to click on the pause button. "Click play or pause again to restart. Is that a battle plan?" Gibbs nodded. "Is it a good one?"
"It got what they needed done and got them out safely. That makes it a good plan." He moved on to the next one, finding it nerve-racking. The kid had taken some chances, but he probably couldn't help it. Not six people against a special ops group. He went back to reading the journal, finding this one ended right before high school graduation. He clicked off the slide show and went down to his car, heading over to see the kid. It was unkind, he was probably asleep again, but oh well. He had the other in his car so he handed it back at the amused look. "I want to see the one from graduation." Xander raised an eyebrow, leaning in the doorway. "I'm serious, kid. I already read the last page of that one." Xander nodded him inside and over to his bookshelf, finding it and handing it over. "Did you ever get to talk to someone?"
"Nope. Then again it's not like I had someone to talk to. The girls wouldn't have listened."
"What about that mentor, Giles?"
"He was there for Buffy. Every now and then he came out of his own research but otherwise, not there really. He was closer to me than my own father was and he tried now and then but I got through it."
"You need to talk to someone who's been there. PTSD alone is enough to make you snap and do something rash."
"I did that one year. I'm well past that stage." He shrugged and sat down, smiling just a tiny bit. "I'm fine, Gibbs. Really I am."
"If you were, you wouldn't let her ride on your coattails. She'd be working, you'd be dating, and Tony wouldn't be cringing each time a woman calls him cute."
"I can't find another name for him. I tried, but everything else came about his smile and his eyes, and then he'd really look gay."
"Point. He's a good agent."
"Gibbs, I call people pet names because I can't remember their real ones. I couldn't figure out one for you at all that wouldn't get me smacked around. Calling Cordelia Buffy just the once was more than enough for me to learn my lesson. Oh, tell Stupidity Boy to eat steak for lunch, even if he doesn't eat meat. He'll need the protein and iron."
"Sure. Can I?" Xander shrugged. "You really okay?"
"I'm fine enough. Really okay stopped when I was ten."
Gibbs sighed. "If your father or mother had been military we would have charged them."
"Not during those years you wouldn't have. My mom did ROTC but during those years charging someone for child abuse took a dead kid. I only ended up near death."
"If you say so."
"I'm well aware of the failings of the system, Gibbs."
"Sure. You wanna talk?"
"Not particularly. The next time I have a suicidal moment I'll call and talk then," he offered, again smiling just a bit. "That's usually when I feel like talking about that stuff."
"Please. Call me or Tony. Either of us will listen." He left, going back to the office, with a quick stop for coffee. On the way his phone rang and he sighed when he saw the number. "Gibbs," he answered. He nodded and turned the car around. "Right away, sir. No, I was out for coffee. Thank you, sir." He hung up and muttered under his breath as he drove to the White House, showing his credentials at the gate. "I got summoned," he noted dryly.
"They're waiting for you in the back hallway, Special Agent Gibbs. Park in the staff parking area please."
He nodded, going to do that, putting the book in his glove box. He got out and turned on the car alarm, looking at the guard watching him. "It's someone's journal. Get over it." The guard moved on and he went inside, then turned and redid the alarm since he had heard a beep. He went back to the car and got the journal, putting it in his pocket. He definitely didn't want the kid to be arrested for saving the world and blowing up his high school. Then they'd have to tell everyone what was going on and that'd give him a headache. He ran into one of the Marine guards. "Which back hallway, Marine?"
"Gunny, sir, the Oval Office hallway, sir."
"Thank you, Marine." He headed that way, mentally groaning. He found the people waiting on him. "You summoned?"
"You busy today?" Fornell asked acidly.
"Why? Have you decided if we're frying the Initiative or not yet?"
"You are, but only for what you can prove in court," a Marine said as he walked up to him.
Gibbs saluted. "General, sir."
"At ease, as you were. We had a strange occurrence and it's happened in a few other places as well. One of the Marine guards here today came in complaining of a deadly migraine but didn't want to be relieved of duty for the day, citing it was his duty and he wouldn't want to inconvenience anyone, but he asked for an out-of-the-sunlight post. Since I heard that ...cult case came through your office...." He stared him down.
Gibbs followed him down to where the guy was, stepping forward to check for a pulse. He looked at the soldier. "Who did it, kid?"
"Speak," the general ordered. He checked his pulse. "He's dead?"
Gibbs pinched the guy on the arm, making him yelp. "Only slightly, sir." He glared at him. "Well?"
"Sirs, I'm sorry, I don't know who he was." He stared over their shoulders. "I was out at a friend's house, I came out of his house and was accosted by an unknown male. I felt my neck burn, then I woke up this morning." He looked at Gibbs. "I know what I am."
"I know what you are too. There's been a bunch of you in town recently." The soldier flinched. He looked at the General. Then around. "This goes no further, mostly because I don't want to be laughed at." Everyone nodded. "You've all seen something about the Initiative project, right?"
"They were crackpots in costumes," one of the other guards said.
"Fat chance." He looked at the General. "Did you ever wonder why Sunnydale, where they put that base, had a fifty percent homicide and missing persons rate, sir?" He shook his head. "It's because of guys like this one now is. And when they had that earthquake, it moved here."
"That cloud in the Mall," Fornell said blandly. Gibbs nodded. "You believe this?"
Gibbs pulled out his pocket knife and ran it across is thumb, waving it under the Marine's nose. He vamped out and everyone yelled and backed away. "Clean it off." The vampire moaned and sucked it for him, then went back to attention. "Let me call someone. 'Cause either I stake you or I'm sending you away, soldier." He called Xander. "Where do we send non-threatening ones?" He nodded, taking down that address. "Thank you, kid." He hung up. "All right, there's two choices. You can either transfer to Sunnydale's base. They still have one there and it's a small one that has a few Marines." The guard nodded. "Or you can transfer over to LA, or as close as you can, and I can give you the address of someone who can teach you how not to hunt. Your choice, Marine."
"I'd like to be taught, sir. If possible." He read the address that was held up. "Thank you, sir, as soon as I can transfer I'll find him, sir."
"Good." He looked at the others. "So, what would you like me to do with this cult of killing beings who're going around and eating soldiers and civilians?"
The general looked at him, then at the Marine, then back at him. "You're dealing with it?"
"Unfortunately. You really need to give the base personnel another talk about how to be safe in an inner city and threatening situation, sir. While most won't take on someone willing to fight back, there's some who will."
"With all due respect, sir, I was nearly dead before I realized what was going on. Fortunately I've seen a lot of horror movies, sir."
"At least you didn't turn into dust in front of one of the press." He looked at them again. "Your choice, gentlemen. What would you have me do? And please don't tell Director Shepard. We're treating this as some covert cult/terrorist cell. We have one of the survivors of Sunnydale in town who's been helping us. He helped us on another case and we realized he knew about these things then."
"Continue as you've begun," the President said as he stepped forward. "How many are in the city?"
"Estimates say just under a hundred by now. Hence us putting out the warnings and things, sir."
"That's fine, Special Agent Gibbs. You dropped this." He handed it over. "That person?"
"Is helping, sir. Everything he's done is to keep this country going. I'm not at liberty to discuss his past because it's not mine."
"I understand. Son, you'll be transferred out as soon as we can. For now, stay down here. There's a few rats and things if you get hungry off duty." He looked at the general. "Make sure any that come back to base like this are either asked if they want to retire and are therefore turned to dust however or sent there." He looked at Gibbs again. "How is your team handling it?"
"I went on my first guided hunt last night and nearly got eaten. They're much faster than I or DiNozzo are, sir. McGee went out without permission and nearly died if not for our Goth lab tech. Officer David called off today for some reason and I still have to talk to her."
"That's fine. Keep me informed. I'll tell Director Shepard that you're sending that directly to me instead of going through her, that way I can coordinate with the others working on the problem since it's so internationally known."
"Yes, sir. Thank you for getting her off my back, sir. We've already agreed that this is our secondary task, we're still working cases."
"That's fine, Gibbs. You weren't there last night?"
"Sir, with all due respect, I hate my own award presentations. Why would I go to another's?"
"She credited you for helping her be the agent she was."
"That's nice, sir, but still." He shrugged. "I'd rather be out hunting something in the clubs." He saluted his boss. "I'm going back to work, sir. I need to find Officer David."
"Go, Gibbs. Tell that young man good work. I saw that disaster after it happened. I'm sure he was there when the town went in?"
"He was. He barely got out alive from what I understand. By the way, he brought up a disaster scenario. A politician or Senior Staff member being turned would be handled by?"
"Me personally," the President assured him. "I'll brief someone in the Secret Service myself." Gibbs nodded. "Thank you for reminding me of that point."
"Not a problem, sir. I just didn't want one of us to have to explain it." He walked out, going back to his car and his coffee. He wasn't allowed to bring his coffee inside near the precious artifacts. Not since he had been hit by a running person and had spilled it on a chair. He called Ziva on the way. "Tell me you have a pulse," he demanded as he backed out. He heard her groan. "Officer David!" he snapped. "Answer me." She answered she still had one, just a small bite. "Report to Ducky tonight, before sundown." He hung up and went back to the office. He walked in and sat down, looking at the case file on his desk. "What's this?"
"I ran home for those reports, Boss," Tony said cheerfully. "They're all there and signed. McGee managed to not keep down his lunch that Abby made him so he's down with Ducky and getting beaten about the head by Abby, and Ziva said she'd report in another hour, long before sundown, she just needed a shower first. Still no case yet, Boss."
"I just met a Marine vampire at the White House."
"Oh, charming. Did we come clean?" Gibbs nodded. "That's fine, who's watching us for happy drugs being needed now?"
"The President himself." He went back to reading. Something was seriously wrong with the battle plan in front of him. He pulled up the picture of the school and saw what it was, then shook his head. Too much distance for the girl to cover before the thing ate her. It'd be dangerous. But then again he'd want her since she was the one he was against. "Interesting. DiNozzo, how many casualties at this event," he ordered, marking the page and tossing over the book.
Tony looked then typed it into the database that was now on his computer so McGee couldn't get into it again and do more stupid stuff. "Fifteen dead at the scene, two non- combatants among those, and three later at the hospital. Approximately sixty injured people beyond then." He looked at the battle plans. "That was far away from their target."
"He probably couldn't get them to change where they were holding the event," he noted dryly. "Toss it back." Tony closed the book and tossed it back. "Thank you."
Tony answered his phone and listened to the dry, tired voice, snickering. Then he hung up. He stood up and walked over. "Ziva just called Harris, Boss. She complained and bitched him out because he didn't tell her that going out during certain times of the month were more dangerous than others."
Gibbs considered that statement then looked at him. "If they want blood and can smell blood, isn't that common sense?"
"I thought so," he admitted. He grinned. "He told her the same thing. Is he all right? He sounded really tired."
"We've all woken him today." He went back to reading, blushing a bit and moving on.
"Let me guess, his road trip?" he asked smugly. Gibbs glared at him so he went back to work, canceling out that file so no one would come read it over his shoulder. "Boss, should I do a sweep for cameras and bugs? We haven't done one in a while." Gibbs looked at him. "I'm somewhere between paranoid and thinking I'm on a trip or something," he admitted quietly. "This is not the sort of case I ever considered when I signed up for the academy and before I met Harris, I thought it was all a stupid myth."
"So do I, DiNozzo. Go ahead and do a sweep for bugs, then let security follow up." He skipped over more musings on the strip club and the clients. He didn't want to know that about the boy. He also didn't want to know why he couldn't strip, he had done just fine at the club the other night while dancing with the succubuses.
Xander walked back into the apartment building and slammed the door. "Willow!" She came out of her apartment, looking concerned. "I just got fired. That means either you've got to get a job or we're going to be kicked out within a month. Your choice." She looked hurt and he glared at her. "Willow, why did you come?" he asked. "Most of what you do could have been done from Sunnydale. You're not hunting, you're not really helping. Most of the time you sit and chat online. As helpful as you are, I need the help."
"I can't work, Xander!"
"Then why don't you file for disability?" he suggested. She gave him her 'pissed' look . "I don't care, Willow! I'm going to be the one that loses things if I can't pay for this stuff and you're sitting on your ass. What did you want me to do?"
She walked back into her apartment and slammed the door.
"Fine, then you get to start selling *your* stuff!"
"I don't have any stuff left!" she screamed.
He opened the door. "Really? I seem to remember you having about fifty programs that aren't on the market."
"I can't just go out and peddle programs on the street! It doesn't work that way!" she yelled back. "What about your stuff?"
"My stuff is the weapons, Willow," he said dryly. "You know, that stuff *I* work with every night?" She flinched. "You took the mortgage money and now I can't pay it this month. I'm having Anya flashbacks!"
"Then call Giles!"
"He told us *both* that Watcher money doesn't come to us and it's only going to get worse with Eliana moving in. All he's going to be paying for her is her food and clothing. Unless you're suddenly getting paid?" She flinched. "You are! I'll be damned! He's been paying you?" He walked into the apartment and made her look at him. "How much is he paying you?"
"Only a few hundred a month. Enough to pay for the food," she said quietly, glaring at him. "Let go."
He turned and stomped upstairs, slamming his door. Then he grabbed his hunting gear. He went to shower and try to calm down. When he came out he grabbed his phone and his sweat pants, heading up to the practice area to do a few workouts. He needed to be calm. He'd do something stupid otherwise. When he got up there, he looked around, then shuddered. The weapons collection was nice but they needed at least half of it. He headed for the punching bag, warming up that way.
"Xander?" Willow called.
"Hey! You don't speak to me like that!"
He turned and glared at her, stopping the swinging bag without having to look. "Fuck off. Figure out what you're selling to make the mortgage this month, Willow. Since you took the mortgage money." She stomped off again. He turned and went back to wearing out his temper before he did something stupid.
A male voice cleared itself from the doorway. "Xander, was that really necessary?"
"Yes, Giles, it was. Since she used the mortgage money for something else, we can't pay it this month. Since I just got fired because I'm the only damn hunter in the city and I've been tired and out of sorts recently, we won't be able to pay it next month either. And now I find out you're paying her to sit around and chat online all day." He turned to glare at him, making him flinch. "What do you want me to do, Giles?"
"Why did you buy the building?" he asked. "You could have gone with a house instead."
"Houses here are more expensive than this building was and they're further out of the center of the city. Since the hellmouth is in the center of the city, I thought it was the better choice." He turned and went back to hitting the heavy bag again. "So either she's selling something or I'm going to have to auction off some of the weapons. Which would you like, Giles?"
"Xander, you don't have to be that way."
He turned to glare at him. "Giles, read my lips. I am the *only* one hunting in this town. There's a few feds who're starting but they're not ready to go out even in teams yet. So I'm once again working full time, until tonight, and hunting for at least four hours a night. Gee, I wonder why I'm a bit pissed that she's doing things like taking the mortgage money."
"You can always pay it...."
Xander walked past him, heading back to his apartment. "Eliana, I'm going hunting, did you want to come?" he called.
"She can't come until next month," Giles called, staring at the now-stiff back. "She's got a broken leg."
Xander turned to look at him. "And you want me to do what, Giles? Die?" He walked into his apartment and slammed the door, locking it for once. Then he put up the magical wards he had created, locking everyone out. He went to change clothes, finding his old hunting clothes in the back of his closet in his trunk. He came out and knelt in front of his altar, praying for some sort of help to come. Of course he didn't feel answered so he finished his prayer and looked at the candle. "You know I don't ask it for myself, Lady, but if you want me to continue, I need some help. I can't do it on my own." Still no feeling like she was answering him so he bowed and blew out the candle. Then he got up and put on his boots, grabbing his wallet to head out. He turned and locked his apartment and the practice area both before heading off.
His bike was still untouched so he undid the security system and got on, putting on his helmet. He started his engine and headed off, going to find a drink and a fight. He wasn't sure which would help more but he needed both. He felt his phone vibrate and pulled out of traffic to put in his ear bud to answer it. "Harris." He sighed and tensed up. "Not now, Tony. Unless you're in mortal peril," he said firmly. "Because I got fired, Willow's been being paid by Giles, she took the mortgage money for some reason, and lo and behold, the new slayer isn't coming in for another month, but Giles is here. You can tell Ducky that if you want. No, I'm not okay. I'm going to go wear out this incredible anger before I hurt Willow. We'll see." He hung up and headed for a club he knew was a good fighting spot.
Tony hung up and looked at the phone, then at the people in his apartment. "Call your friend and see what crawled up her ass."
"Why? What happened?"
"Xander got fired, Willow took the mortgage money, Giles is here, Ducky, and the girl's not coming for a month. He's off to get into a fight." He sat down and looked at her. "I'm serious. If their mortgage is twelve hundred a month and she's getting two grand a month, she should be responsible for some of it." She looked stunned. "I don't know what's wrong with her but she needs fixed."
"She does. I'm headed over there. Ducky, would you like to go?"
"I wouldn't mind," he agreed, smiling at Tony. "Thank you for the respite from duty, Anthony. I'll see you tomorrow. Bring me some of the leftovers if you don't eat it all." He followed her out, even driving since her car was in the shop.
Tony leaned back and thought. Someone needed to step in and wasn't. He called Gibbs. "Xander's in a rage at the moment, Boss," he reported quietly. "We've also had a small setback. Our new girl won't be here for a month or so. He didn't say. I called him to see if he wanted to go out after work. No, he got fired and Willow took the mortgage money. He was in that calm rage moment. I don't know, Boss. I have no idea but I sent Abby over to talk to her and Ducky went to talk to his nephew since he's in. Yeah, him." He smirked a bit. "That Ziva, Boss? Have you ripped her a new one yet? Because you know I wanted tape," he offered teasingly. "No, our dinner broke up. A movie probably. You sure? Fine, I'll go find him. Any idea where I should look?" The name of the bar made his eyebrow raise. "Was that a guess?" He nodded once. "I figured you probably had planted a tracker on him. I'll be home later, after I get him calmed down."
He hung up and went to change. There was no way he was going to one of the tougher bars in the city in a cashmere sweater and dockers. He came out in an older pair of jeans and a tight t-shirt, grabbing his jacket from inside the closet. Then his keys and shoes, heading out to find the boy before he died. Or worse, ended up severely injured and nagged for it. It only took him about ten minutes to get the bar at this time of night. He knew where it was because he'd been there once or twice when his temper took off. He parked and heard the fight already going in the alley, heading that way. And there was Xander. He watched him beat the human bullies, since they were bleeding they were probably alive, and watched him take a few blows without a comment or a noise. He finished off the last one and turned, staring at him. "Wanna talk? This isn't the best way to wear that out."
"No, not really." He smoothed down his hair. "I really want to go kill my best friend and my former almost-mentor." He walked around the bodies and joined him at the end of the alley. "Who sent you after me?"
"Gibbs." Xander made a 'go on' motion with one hand, the other coming up to wipe some blood off his mouth. "I called you, reported to Ducky and Abby what was going on, they're heading to talk to those two and I called Gibbs to tell him the new girl wasn't going to be coming in for a bit. He told me to come get you when he heard where you were."
"How did you know where I was?"
"He had you found, kid." He nodded. "Come on, I've got fresh pizza and beer at my place."
"I'm not good company."
"Eh, it happens. Come on. I've got ice packs too."
"Those are nice," he admitted, following him. He got on his bike and Tony looked at him. "I can head there."
"I didn't on the way here."
"Yeah, and now you're in that bad part of the anger, the depressed part. I'll drive and you can park her in a garage." Xander nodded, going to take his precious baby to the nearest parking garage. There were plenty of them in the area. Tony picked him up outside and drove him back to his place. "Why isn't she paying part of it?"
"She said Giles is only paying her a few hundred," he sighed, resting his head on the back of the seat. "I shouldn't be surprised. It's not enough to take care of it and this sort of thing keeps happening to me."
Tony pulled over and pulled something out of his glovebox. "Gibbs was wondering about things that could make you break and how you were managing on a bartender's salary," he noted, handing the papers over to him. "He had me do a financial check to make sure you were okay and couldn't have that used to make you do stupid stuff."
Xander looked at the form, frowning, then at him. "Since when?"
"As far as I could tell, about the same time you got here. The month before you showed up to close the hellmouth," he said quietly.
"So why did she take the mortgage money? If she's making more than that, why is she doing it?"
"I don't know," he admitted.
"I need to go home."
"Yeah, yet." He got out and looked around, then concentrated really hard, landing inside the apartment building. Giles yelped and moved away from him so he glared at him. He walked into Willow's apartment, pulling her up by the hair. "You make how much a month from the Watcher's Council and you took the mortgage money?" he demanded coldly.
"Let me go!"
"Hell no!" He shoved her down and held up the paperwork. "Someone did a check to make sure no one could hold the financial stuff over my head, so that I couldn't be forced into a position that would compromise the newest hunters in the city, Willow. Guess what he found!" he finished coldly. She flinched and tried to move away. "You're going back to Sunnydale. I don't care. I can easily get someplace smaller a few minutes further out and live off the interest of the sale of this place and some of the weapons. You're going home since you're not productive and you're sabotaging me." He turned and looked around, then back at her. "I can find another hacker, leave the computers here." He walked over and touched something on the wall, making the whole building glow for a moment. Then he looked at her. "Have a nice trip. I'm sure Giles can stay long enough to talk with Ducky for a few days." He walked out, finding Tony pulling up onto the street. He got back in and took a few deep breaths when he got stared at. "Sorry. I had to send her home."
"I understand. You're going to sell that and get somewhere smaller and further out?" Xander nodded. "Good idea. I hope it doesn't take too long."
"Me too. I might have to sell a few of the weapons but I really don't care at the moment," he said a bit too calmly and quietly. "Can we be anywhere but here? She'll try to break the magic with Giles and I don't want to watch her fail again."
"Sure." He took off, taking him back to his place. Xander didn't exactly trudge inside but it was close. "You can have the couch if you need it tonight, Xander."
"Thank you, Tony." He sat down, hands on his head, just holding it so it wouldn't split. "Why do they do this to me? I got sent here with her. Giles ordered me here and then sabotages me. Why?" he asked, looking at him.
"I don't know. Personally I'd say fear. Maybe that you'll be better at the job than he is." He sat down, looking at him. "Want an ice pack?"
"You're not fine. Even Gibbs would be complaining that he was sore with the way your face and chest looks." Xander looked at him. "I watched you take down the last two, kid. You need some medical attention."
"Ducky just stared in horror so I'm guessing he'll complain to me tomorrow, but I'm fine at the moment. I can't feel it."
"That's a bad thing, Xander," he said quietly. "It's bad to not feel."
"Yeah, but sometimes it's the only balm a soul has," he noted dryly, looking at him. "I can head out so you can get some rest."
"If you move, I'm handcuffing you," he said firmly, standing up. "And then I'm calling Gibbs to come lecture you."
"I don't need a dad, Tony. You do a good impersonation of giving a damn though." He stood up. "I'm fine. Really. I was going to go sit and watch the river."
"No. Maybe tomorrow. Not at night, not alone, and not injured." He got given a dirty look. "I mean it."
Xander smiled but shook his head. "Thank you for the ride and the information but I can handle it and myself, Tony. Really. I'll even give you the new address." He left, heading outside.
Tony followed, neck pinching him so he could catch him and carry him back inside. One of his neighbor's caught him so he lowered him, letting her see his face. "He's refusing an ice pack. I don't think that's a good idea." He walked back inside, kicking the door shut. He handcuffed Xander on the couch then went to get a few cold packs from the freezer for him. He could only guess where it hurt, but the boy had been hit at least twice in the ribs and stomach that he had seen and his whole face needed one so he dropped the larger one onto it. Then he sat down to call Gibbs. "I've got him, Boss, he's handcuffed on the couch. He's a bit banged up. I gave him the financial information I had and he disappeared to talk to her for a few minutes. He's feeling a bit betrayed but he'll be fine. Boss, have you ever see someone that scared you because they were mad? I did. If you want. I still have some pizza and stuff left." He hung up and turned on a movie, getting another slice of pizza to nibble on while he waited.
Xander woke up to someone touching the bruise on his chin. "I'm fine. Get off."
"You're not fine. Shut up," Gibbs told him. He helped him sit up, watching him wince. "You don't feel it when you're fighting?"
"I trained myself to feel it later." He looked at him, then at the clock, then back at him. "Don't you have to be at work at eight?"
"So? I'll actually make it up at five." He looked at the boy's face again. "Take off the shirt."
"No." He stood up and got pushed back down so he stood up again. "No. I don't need it. I'm fine. I won't even go kill her."
"That's fine, she's already flying back without most of the stuff since she was complaining about how much stuff she had to leave." He touched the bruised cheek then looked in the tired eyes. "Ducky's going to yell tomorrow."
"He probably will but I'm still fine. I've had worse than this before, Gibbs."
Gibbs nodded and pushed him back down, watching him wince and hiss as he bounced a bit. "That's the problem. You've gotten to the point where we'd be discharging you from the service for emotional issues." Xander frowned at him. "You would be. You're always angry. You're never calm. You're fighting to take out your stress. It's not healthy for you, kid."
"Yeah, well...." Someone knocked on the door. "You already called Ducky?"
"No. I didn't. He said he'd be seeing you tomorrow afternoon." He went to look out the peephole then answered the door, looking at the officer. "Yes?"
"Sir, we had a report that a young man had been assaulted?"
"Actually he got into a bar brawl. His best friend just screwed him over so he went to get a bit drunk."
"Oh. That's fine then. Can I see him?" Gibbs let him inside the apartment. He looked at the young man. "Do you want to press charges? That must have been some brawl."
"The six of them were unconscious when I left," he admitted quietly, staring at him. "The club's bouncers handed me to them when I walked in. Told me I was the new meat on the block and had to prove myself. I'm sure the bouncers brought them back inside."
"We got a report about that fight as well but no one down there said anything. You went to a prison bar?" he asked dryly.
Xander shrugged. "My former best friend stole the mortgage money before I could pay it this month. I just got fired tonight. I found out that she was getting paid by someone else all along and, oh, she'd been sitting on her ass for it for the last few months. I was a bit pissed," he said facetiously. Gibbs smacked him across the back of the head. "Sorry, I don't mean to take it out on others."
"No, I'd be angry too. Where is she?"
"Heading back to Cali," he noted bitterly. "Where I told her to go." The cop nodded. "I'm fine, really. Thank the neighbor who reported it, but I'm fine. They're trying to get me calmed down instead of letting me walk off to go for a cross-country run or something."
"That's fine. It's good to have such good friends." He looked at Gibbs. "Is this your apartment, sir?"
"No, it's one of my agent's residence," he admitted. "He's reading in the bedroom with his discman on while we talked. Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, NCIS," he said, shaking his hand.
The cop smiled. "Then I figure you've seen plenty of fights after the fact. Does he need medical attention?"
"No and our staff ME likes him like a nephew. He'll be fine."
"Good. Thank you, sir." He looked at the younger man. "You as well, Mr. Harris." Xander raised an eyebrow. "Someone was looking for you earlier, said you had basically walked out after a very bad fight and they were worried about your mental state. So she called us."
"Uh-huh. Was that a Willow person?"
"No, someone named Abby Sciuto? Something like that."
"Abby works with them," he admitted with a slight smile. "She's a nice lady."
"Good. It's always good to have supportive friends." He nodded and left, closing the door behind him.
Gibbs went to lock it then came back to find Xander with one of the ice packs against his mouth. "You want some tylenol?"
"No, I'll survive, it just cracked when I smiled."
"I've had those." He sat on the coffee table, making the kid look at him. "I have scars of my own," he said quietly. "Take off the shirt so I can check your ribs."
Xander shifted some. "Just sore." He got that same glare so he sighed and did it.
Gibbs looked at the chest. The scars were mostly faint. There were a few that weren't and those bothered him. He touched one and the boy flinched away. "Sorry." He carefully checked his ribs and sides, then his abdomen for additional squishy areas that shouldn't be. He got up to look at the guy's back, finding a few bruises, one near a kidney, but nothing too tragic. Just more scars back there. Some less faint than others. He frowned and looked at one set. "Who whipped you?"
Xander got away from him and put his shirt back on. "Don't ask." He looked at the hallway, then at him. "Since she's gone can I go home?"
"Giles is still there."
"I can duck him. That's not a problem. Got any idea where I should look for the new lair? Probably a small house?"
"Yeah, I do actually. There's a nice area that's still near the subway lines that's not too expensive. You can read the paper when he takes you to pick up your bike."
"I can call a cab and get home tonight," he noted quietly.
"Not with those injuries you're not. Were any of those consensual?" he asked, staring him down.
"No, but one was a choice of let him and let him pay me for it or he'd do it anyway and kill my stupid ass." Gibbs just blinked a few times. "Someone set me up. Blind date from hell. Kinda literally since it was my ex."
"Did you get her back?"
"She expected me to use the money to buy her things," he said bitterly. "And I didn't. That got her more than anything else. I made about six hundred for three hours and I managed to save my life at the same time. I'd call that a good night."
"Me too. Did anyone punish her for doing that to you?"
"Who would have? Willow?" he asked dryly. "Not hardly."
Gibbs shook his head and sat down again. "I couldn't stand to be around people like that, Xander."
"Yeah, well, I didn't have anyone else. They were all the family I'd had." He held in a sniffle. "I really should go."
Xander looked at him. "I don't take orders, Gibbs. Like I told Tony, you're really great guys and I like hunting with you, but I'm not your officer and I'm not your kid. No matter how good you'd do at the job. I'm damn sure you would have found out I was hunting within a week of my first one." He shrugged then winced a bit. "I'm heading back."
"How did you disappear from the car?"
"Magic. I can do a lot more than people think." He smirked a bit and winked. "Thank you for reminding me."
"Do it and I'll go there and handcuff you to the bed until you're no longer bruised."
"Torture is wrong," he noted dryly. But inside he felt a bit happier at that. "How is Ziva?"
"Pissed at herself for not thinking about that. She's fine. I spent most of the night going over hunting strategies with her. Sit. Now. I doubt you have any ice packs."
"Actually, I have a good store of them. I also have my vicodin at home if I should ache more."
Gibbs reached over and pulled the kid down, forcing him to sit. "There, better," he said, staring him down. "If we're going to be a team, you've got to get used to the idea of someone having your back. That's what teams do. They support each other. That's why all my people are so tight. I know you have no experience in that area, but now you've got to learn a few new skills. Like trust."
"I do trust you."
"No, you don't. If you did, you wouldn't be hiding the fact that you're still in pain. Or that you're so tired you're about to fall over. Tony!" He came out of the bedroom. "I think for now he'll be staying on the couch. He's likely to pass out in the cab if he left." Xander opened his mouth and he glared at him. Then he looked at Tony again. "Explain how teams work to him. He's never been part of one."
"I did very well as part of my construction team."
"It's not the same thing. In this area, like being an agent, you're all doing the same thing. You're not working together on separate tasks, like you used to do. You're all going in on a bust together. Good teams know what their team members are going to do. We don't have time to train you as an agent," he noted. "The basics aren't too hard to master though. The most basic level is trust." Xander nodded at that, shrugging a bit. "So trust us to help you now when you need it."
"I do, but I don't need the help."
"Kid, if I was that injured, I'd be whining." He looked at Tony again. "Watch out for his back. He's got a bruise right next to one of his kidneys. His ribs and stomach seemed okay. His face will be one big bruise tomorrow but he should be fine."
"Thanks, Gibbs." Tony smiled and let him out, then came back. "He's right. It's kinda obvious you've never been part of this sort of team. Even a pair of people, like you and I hunting, should be able to work together as a team. That means I have to be able to understand you and you've got to understand me a little more than you already do." Xander nodded slowly. "You're already way ahead of me on that level. All I get from you is a lot of anger and pain. You're still grieving and you're angry about your eye probably, and a lot of other hurts that keep building up. Team members are someone you can talk to about those things."
"So, if you had a night like mine, you'd be talking to Ziva?"
"No. Not her, not yet. She's too new to the team, kid. I don't trust her to lead the way into a firefight but I do trust her to lead an interrogation. I know her strengths and we're all working on the many weaknesses she has. Including her lack of trust." He stared in the brown eyes, seeing the realization dawn. "So now we're going to help you integrate better. Even when you have to move on you hopefully won't go alone. This way you'll be able to help your next team form easier and we'll make sure we all come out of this alive. Okay?" Xander nodded, getting that part. "Good. Now, what was he talking about on your back?"
"Two of the bastards got me in the bar before we brought it outside."
"Ah. Want me to look at them?"
"They're just bruises."
"So? I can handle scars, Xander. We've all got scars and bruises." Xander sighed and took his shirt off, turning to let him see. He blinked at the scarring. "What the hell?" he asked, reaching over to touch. "Are those whip marks?"
"Yeah." He put back on his shirt. "My ex, Anya, set me up with someone who decided he was either going to pay me for it or he was going to kill me if he didn't pay me. I lasted almost three hours before I broke. I made about six hundred dollars. I also didn't talk to her for quite a while."
"I'd have beaten her," he said, shaking his head. "How could you trust her?"
"She was a demon, then became human again. It's just how she was. I expected her to do something like that when she wasn't allowed to punish me for leaving her at the altar. I expected him to try to kill me, but he at least gave me the choice of paying me and making me feel like a whore, and telling her about it, or dying."
"Did you at least yell at her?" he pleaded.
Xander smirked. "No, but when she started to talk about it with the others I pointed out she wasn't going to be taking any of that money either. No presents or anything, which was what she was starting to demand. My former girl Anya was a money hoover. Serious money hoover. Even worse than Willow turned out to be." He glanced around then at him. "How long was I out?"
"You apparently needed a nap. It was the better part of an hour."
"I wonder if Ducky yelled at Giles again. I think he's the only person who saw the real me in Sunnydale."
Tony nodded. "The last I knew he was. He had a good long yell at him. I heard him threaten to turn him over his knee and paddle him like he should have done the last time he saw him." Xander giggled at that image. "I know, but Ducky's such a knight some days," he offered with a grin.
"Yeah, he was like that during his last trip to Sunnydale. His first one he kinda sat and smiled, told us stories about Giles as a young boy and teenager. Drank some tea, reminisced about the old home place. The second time we were having problems in the group. Within a day of getting there he had already yanked Buffy's chain until she had a clue she was an asshole, yelled at Willow until she cried and ran off, where her girlfriend did the same thing more gently, and told me that I was a dumbass, his words, for going out hunting alone. Giles just stared at me with horror and demanded that I stop, that I wasn't qualified, that I was going to get myself killed and think about how the group would feel then. Ducky looked like he wanted to hit him and told Giles what he had seen since he had hidden for a day to watch the group. Giles sat down heavily and had a lot of scotch that night. Buffy stomped off in a snit and Ducky and I talked about fencing and swords. For a guy his age, he can really move."
"He can, but he's also a pretty gentle guy."
"I know. He told me to dump Anya a few times. Looks like he was right." Tony smiled at that. "How about you? Any really rotten girlfriends in your closet?"
"Two. One went stalker and the other I walked away from. I ended up being disinherited because of it."
"I'm not. I'm happier now than I would have been in the family's business or on Wall Street. Or even as a lawyer, which my father tried to shove me towards since I wanted to be a cop. He said at least that way I'd have part of what I wanted and be bringing the family honor and more money, plus a happy society wife who wouldn't complain about anything I did. I ran away from her during the wedding preparations."
"I'm sorry. Do you still talk to them?"
"Every now and then I get a letter reminding me I'm the last in the family and I've got to do my duty and produce an heir. Nothing more than that and some gossip." He shrugged. "Like I said, I'm happier here."
"It's always good to be happy."
"What would you do if you didn't have to hunt?" Xander shrugged. "You didn't have any ideal career?"
"No. I liked working construction but I don't have the depth perception for it with the glass eye. Before my eye got popped, I was the lead for the town. I had two crews under me and I was making really good money. Then my eye popped and I suddenly missed the nail more often than I hit it. I had problems driving my car until I switched to the bike during my detox from the town. I got left him by a former friend who died."
"Then I hope the parking garage is a safe enough spot," Tony offered.
"I've got him magically warded," he admitted. "I built on what the former owner did."
"How long have you been studying?"
"On and off now for five years. A protection charm here, a banishing charm there. An endurance spell now and then to keep up with Anya's demands. The occasional prayer for extra resources to aid in the fighting. I tried that last night. I'm not sure if my not being answered means that the Lady doesn't want me fighting or if it means I should endure and try to make due. Where would I go to talk to someone about auctioning off some of the weapons?"
"There's a few good auction houses in town," he offered. "Some of the museums might take them."
"They want donations, not to buy stuff. I tried that in LA to get us here." He forced himself to stay calm. "Giles ordered us to come take care of this situation and then he claimed he doesn't have the resources to help us. Yet he's paying her for sitting on her ass and chatting."
"Calm down," Tony said, shifting over to give him a friendly hug. The boy stiffened and he pulled away. "Friends can do that."
"Yeah, I know. Sorry."
"Fighting your lust?" he teased.
"Of course, baby, you know that," he taunted back. "Right now I'd love nothing more than to flip you onto your back and make you howl."
Tony blushed but he laughed. "Sorry, I like to be on top and I think it'd probably do you better anyway, Xander. You'd be able to ground yourself in the sensations." He fluffed the boy's hair. "Why don't I get you a blanket?"
"Sure. Thanks for putting up with me."
"That's what team members and friends do." He went to get him a spare blanket, bringing it out with a pillow. "Here. Get comfortable, just don't strip fully. Night."
"Night, Pretty Boy."
Tony smiled. The hated nickname coming back meant that the boy was getting back closer to normal. It had almost freaked him out to hear his name from the kid's mouth.
Xander looked up from his packing when someone rang the bottom doorbell, going down to let Giles in. "I forgot I installed that." He turned and walked away from him.
"Xander, may we talk?"
"That depends, are you going to sabotage me further?" he called as he headed back to the training area. He didn't want Giles in his apartment. He unlocked the door and walked in, sitting on a stack of mats to look at him. "What?"
"This is nicer than the old one," he noted. "Good work."
"Yeah, well...." He shrugged. "I needed it at least."
"I do agree, you did need the area to train and practice." He looked at the boy. "I meant for you two to come here and monitor the situation, not end up fighting."
"They ate military personnel, Giles. We've already gone from fifty in town to just over a hundred. Me taking last night off probably wasn't smart." Giles looked stunned. "The power here isn't like Sunnydale's. It doesn't radiate from everywhere. It's also less earth magic and more greedy magic. So, yeah, had to hunt. All by myself since you're still babying Willow." He stared him down. "Since they ate military personnel and some of their agents knew me they came for my help and I've got three in training on how to hunt. That gives me backup some nights. So, how long were you paying her and expecting me to work?"
"She couldn't work, Xander."
"She could have told me she was being paid and therefore chipped in on the mortgage and other bills," he said coldly. "Instead she hid it as 'oh, mom sent me some money for food' and bought groceries and nagged me for money." Giles winced. "She was doing what with it? Magic dealer?" He shook his head. "Then what?"
"The book collection I'm afraid." He cleared his throat and looked around again. "There's a book that we don't have that deals with this phenomenon. She was paying installments on it. I've taken care of the mortgage this month, and only three days late, and we'll see what we can do so you don't have to work full time." Xander nodded once but didn't calm down. "Were you going to move?"
"Probably. Is Eliana getting her own place?"
"She'll be moving back in with her mother, who does know of her status. She hasn't kept anything from her. I talked with her earlier today and she said she wouldn't have a problem and I told her to see you a lot. I'll expect you to be her Watcher, Xander. That's why *you* were sent. I knew I'd be sending a girl within a few months." Xander nodded. "I also got the notes you made on the power warping and things. They're not heavily studied fields but if you'd like to I would gladly include it in the records."
"It'll give me something to think about when all my day is 'slay and repeat'."
"Fine. I would appreciate that as well," he agreed gently. He moved closer. "Did you get into a fight with some vampires?"
"No, I went to a prison bar, where former prisoners hang out, and got into a fight with about six of them." He winced at that. "They're still living."
"I'd hope so." He made the boy look at him. "Next time go challenge some vampires. It's not fair with your training to pick on humans."
"I'm at a disadvantage anyway since they're slower."
"True, but still. You could unconsciously slay one and I'd hate to see you after that fact."
"You mean like the guy I nearly killed for breaking into my apartment in Sunnydale?" he noted dryly. "Or one of the thugs who held me up when I was working fast food and at the mini mart?" Giles winced at that. "It's not the first time, Giles, and I'm not some beserking person. So just drop it." Giles nodded. "If she's going home to her mother's then I definitely don't need somewhere this big. So I'm selling this one and moving a bit further out. What ring does she live in?"
"Good. Is she on the positive side of the warping?" He nodded. "Even safer. I'll try to find somewhere on the other side and about the same distance out. I really hope I don't end up in some happy housing development."
"Me a well. You'd have to hide a lot from the neighbors." He patted him on the head. "I didn't mean to sabotage you. That money was for expenses. That book shall be here today."
"Ducky kicked your ass?" he asked with a smirk.
"Quite. My uncle sat me down and had a good, long chat about how stupid I was." He grimaced. "It seems he's quite able to see through my worst moments faster than I can."
"It's because he works with Gibbs, who can be the world's biggest surly bastard at times."
"Ah. One of the people you're training?" That got a nod. "I haven't met them yet."
"I doubt you want to at the moment."
"Hmm. True. If they liked you they would stick up for you. What do they do?"
"NCIS." Giles stared down at him and he smirked and nodded. "The vamps here started eating base personnel. They remembered me from Santa Clara."
"Oh, dear. At least they can cover some of the tracks officially. Ducky works with them?" Xander nodded. "Interesting. As?"
"Oh, I see. I had forgotten he did that. That's fine. Would you like help looking at places?"
"No, I'm good on the looking part. It's the selling this one and making enough difference on the selling price to cover the new one and the old mortgage. That and finding a new job."
"Work in a bookstore, Xander. Or ask that young woman Abby. I'm sure she could find you a spot within the Goth community. Though I would be most distressed should you suddenly start to dress like that all the time."
"I don't know, he looks decent enough in leather," Gibbs said from the doorway. "We had a Jag officer eaten. He's still living but asking questions."
"Tell him it was a wild animal."
"She was his girlfriend. He already knew that." Xander giggled at that, holding his side. "Ducky wanted brought over. He's down in your place."
"That's fine." He stood up. "Be nice," he whispered as he walked past him. "Please." He headed down to his place, hugging Ducky. "Thank you. He's seen some sense."
"It was the least I could do. The poor lad keeps trying to imitate his father, who was a bastard. Take off the shirt, Xander." Xander sighed and took off the shirts he was wearing, letting him see all the bruises. "Well, I suppose it could be worse. You could be dead from a punctured lung."
"I'm immortal, Ducky, didn't you know that?" he joked.
"No man is immortal and since you are a man, you can't be." He looked him over, then nodded and looked into his good eye. "Your glass one seems a bit tight. Have you taken it out to clean it a lot recently."
"No. I can't stand to take it out at all," he sighed. "It's icky."
"That's fine. Would you like me to?"
"No." He shook his head. "I can't stand the action of taking it out."
"You'll need to at least rinse around it more often then. I'm worried about an infection setting in." Xander nodded, letting him smile at him. "You really are quite strong, Xander, but even you can be brought down by smallest things," he said quietly. "I'd hate to lose you to an infection instead of a vampire some night."
"Good boy." He patted him gently on the cheek and the boy didn't wince. "Had your pain killers?" He shook his head. "Then you've built up an impressive pain tolerance and I should worry why." Xander pointed at his back. "Yes, I saw that. Did you kill him?"
"He was mortal. I did tell the cops and let them watch him. The Sunnydale police weren't that good but he had a victim screaming and pleading for mercy when they showed up. I have very good timing," he said with a smirk. Ducky smiled and patted him again. "I'm moving and you're going to be more than welcome to come over."
"Thank you, Xander. I always did appreciate talking to you. You listen to me." He gathered everything back up. "Nothing too tragic, just some bruising. Now, why did you really lose your job?"
"Two of the guys came after me to jump me about an hour after I got to work. The boss was there, he watched them jump me. He watched me put them onto the floor then walk over them. He told me I was fighting too much and I pointed out I had the right to defend myself since the bouncers weren't. He decided I was gay and that's why he fired me."
"Ah." He nodded. "That name you call Tony?" He nodded. "I see. Are you suing him? You can you know."
"Why? It wouldn't make matters any better would it?"
"Well, no. Where are you going to look?"
"Someone suggested that Abby help me find one," he offered with a grin. "Bartending at a goth club."
Ducky got a sudden picture of Xander in eyeliner and leather pants, but nothing else, his hair grown a bit longer, and shivered. "Perhaps but that might also make you more scary as well, Xander." He looked over his chest. "When are you putting back in the piercing?"
"I only took it out last night, Ducky." He went into the bathroom for his nipple ring collection, letting him see. "Which one do you think?"
"The Egyptian one," he offered, pointing at the small decorated hoop. Xander grinned and put his nipple ring back in. "Is it actual hieroglyphs?"
"Yeah, but it's also a garbled sentence." He stood up and put that one in, then looked at the rest. "I should go get my ears done. I've been meaning to."
"Take Rupert, he used to have an earring and he could use the fun. Especially since he's in a spoiling mood." He smiled at the boy. "Just don't ask me, Xander. Now, let's go bother Jethro again." He walked him up the stairs, noticing the two were sparring. "Hmm, Jethro has certainly kept up with his practice." Gibbs smirked at him then ducked a swing and knocked him down, pulling out the stake. "Bravo, gentlemen. Very nicely done, Jethro. It appears Xander has gotten you into the right mindset to hunt." They shared a look and he knew he had been threatening Giles at that point. "Xander is just fine, I'm happy to report, and I believe he was going to have fun for a bit today and get something he's been meaning to do before he goes looking for a new job." He clapped his hands once. "Now then, shall we talk about what the rest of us are doing today?"
"Xander and I were going hunting tonight," Jethro admitted. "Ziva's still down with her last bite and the problem that caused it." Xander snickered at that. "I agree, kid, it's common sense. So, you, me, and Tony?" Xander nodded. "When?"
"It's not like I have a lot to do tonight, Gibbs. I'm good with whenever you're ready."
"That's fine." He looked down and helped Giles up, looking at him. "Did you want to come with us?"
"No. I'm a Watcher, I only hunt to save my own life. I'm not that skilled in that area."
"Research is more his thing," Xander offered, coming in. "Ducky thinks I should find work at a goth club, Gibbs. What do you think?"
Gibbs looked at him and you could just tell he was imagining Xander in one of Abby's outfits by the look on his face. Then he shuddered. "If you can find it there and fit in. I'll call tonight. You behave and relax today. Talk to the realtors and things over the phone so they don't worry about the bruises." He nodded at Giles. "I'll pick him up tonight." He walked out with Ducky.
Ducky looked at him. "What did you see him in? I saw him in those nearly obscene leather pants, eyeliner, longer hair and nothing else."
"You know that short school girl skirt Abby has? That," he offered, sipping his coffee. Then he shook his head to clear that image again. "I think I'll have nightmares now."
Ducky smiled. "You probably will," he agreed. "Shall I tell Abigail that he's looking?"
"Sure. She can only help." He got in to drive, heading back to the office, praying for something to take that image out of his head. Tony just looked up and smirked at him so he had to pass it on. "Harris is going looking for a new job at one of Abby's places."
Tony just blinked a few times then shuddered. "Eewwww! Bad mental image! Bad mental image!" He rubbed his eyes. "Eewwwww! Boss!"
"Sorry, kid, had to get mine out of my head."
"What did you see?"
"Him in her school girl outfit. You?"
"Yours is worse," he said, getting up to go to the bathroom and bang his head against the wall a few times.
McGee looked at their boss. "Boss, do I want to know why you're picturing Harris in that outfit?"
"He's going to try to work at a goth club."
"Ah. Well, I'm sure he'll fit in. The night he met Melodia he seemed to do it very well." He got back to work, shuddering at that mental image. He'd never be able to escape him now. He'd be called Fluffy by everyone Abby knew.
Tony looked up as Xander came out of the building and locked the door, frowning a bit. His hair had been cut so it was shorter and spikier. His black silk shirt and black leather pants were topped off by his bike jacket, and his new earrings shone quite prettily in the streetlights. He got in and smiled at him. "New look for you."
"I've been meaning to but I couldn't in Cali. Sunnydale was a bit backward." He buckled up. "Where are we headed tonight?"
"A mixed club, both military and not. Two of the people who ended up dead were partying there and the boss wanted to see." He put the car in gear, glancing over at him. He was hot. "I hope they let you in."
"They should. Silk and leather get me nearly everywhere. Oooh, I found a new job," he said, turning to look at him. "Ever hear of a club called Pyro?" Tony nodded slowly. "I'm bartending there."
"That explains the new earrings."
"I like 'em. I always have. I also got a new tat to cover the shrapnel injury in my shoulder. It makes the scar less noticeable."
"How did that happen?"
"When we took down the Initiative there was a lot of exploding stuff and flying material. I got hit with some of it on the way out. I pulled it out at home but I didn't get it all. It sets off your office metal detector very well. The guards now just pick up the hand wand on sight of my bike." Tony grinned at that. "Is he already there?"
"He left home about ten minutes before I did. I had to change. He caught me in the shower." He shifted up as they hit the interstate, going to the other side of the city. "Any luck on the house stuff?"
"Giles found one for me. I'm closer to the center of the disturbance but it's also safer for me. It's up the street from that Catholic church that was warping the darkness."
"That's a pricey area; it's all condos and stuff."
"I've got a townhouse now. He arranged it all today and got me all moved with magic stuff. The building was snatched by the PD because they needed a new safe house. I'm sensing the unsubtle hand of someone in your agency." He looked at him and Tony shrugged. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, Detective DiNozzo, would you?"
"Nope," he said innocently, grinning at him. He took an off ramp and headed for the street they needed. Parking wasn't a problem, they had a dedicated lot. The bouncer gave Xander an amused look. "He's visiting a buddy here," he explained. "We all have strange friends." The bouncer smiled but let them inside once they had paid the cover, and he found Gibbs drinking a beer. "Hey, Boss." He slid in and let Gibbs see Xander.
Gibbs almost choked, keeping it down to the spluttering level, and stared. "That's a new look."
"I'm working at Pyro," he offered with a grin, sitting down. "I always wanted to and my new tat makes my shrapnel scar nearly disappear."
"Where did you get that?"
"The base we raided."
"Oh. Sorry. You okay? Still sore from it?"
"I'm fine. I've had another one done. It's not yanking at the moment. Even if I'm punched on it I took a pain killer before coming." Gibbs nodded at that. "Tony was amused by the sapphire stud I think."
"I'm amused by it too." He shook his head and looked around. "I think there's three?"
Xander glanced around, like he was checking out the dancers, and nodded. "Five possible, two are just really pale instead of vamp pale." He looked at him, then smiled at the bouncer coming their way. "Hi."
"You, um, aren't our usual sort, sir."
"I'm here at his request," he said, pointing at Gibbs. "Gunny?"
Gibbs smirked, he had heard Xander was doing a check on him. "Yeah, I invited the kid. He's a good kid." He looked at him. "Earrings beside the point."
"Ah. That's fine." He clearly looked him over. "Army?"
"Marines. Active and reserve."
"Then I commend you, sir." He walked off, keeping an eye on the kid.
Xander looked at him. "The only problem I'm seeing is that they're all male. This isn't exactly the place for sex baiting."
"Point. I don't know how to deal with that."
"Alley?" Tony asked quietly. Someone walking past gave him an odd look. "Having a private conversation, sweetie. Shoo." She huffed off. He shook his head and looked at Gibbs. "At least I don't date women like that."
"This week," he quipped back. Tony blushed a bit at that. He looked at Xander again. "I don't know how you want to play this either."
Xander smirked a bit. "Well, we could go try to make friends. They've got a lot of pretty ladies around them." Gibbs looked and nodded, that was true. The bouncer came back by and said something in Gibb's ear, so Gibbs pulled his badge. "You maybe wanna help us?" he offered quietly. "Throw 'em out for the night?"
"You're targeting who?"
"Some guys we think are part of that cult," Tony told him. "They're the pale ones with the ladies around them. They were here a few nights back when some other military personnel disappeared and were later found dead."
The bouncer looked at Xander. "You're an agent?"
"No, I'm a specialist." He grinned. "I'm the person who keeps dealing with this cult wherever they show up."
"Ah." He went to tell his fellow bouncers and they agreed to toss the guys out. Having them busted inside would look bad on the club. The first hint of trouble and they were all tossed out, and Xander pointed at one of the ladies, who came with them.
"Dear," he said, holding a napkin to her neck. "Go home."
"If you're military, report back to base to get treatment," Gibbs ordered calmly. She nodded, heading back to do that. "Nice catch."
"Thanks, he was marking her for later." They got up and followed the guys outside, heading out to find them in the parking lot with a few others. He coughed and they turned to look at him, making him grin. "Boys."
"Federal Agents, we need to have a talk about some disappearing people," Gibbs ordered. They all looked amused. "You can come quietly or we can do this here, in front of everyone." One lunged and Gibbs hit him, noticing he was cold to the touch. His instincts had been right. "Subdue only. We need information." Xander nodded, moving in to get the others down. One turned out to be living but one of the vampires fought to get back to him.
Xander moved closer, tipping his face up. "Turning your boyfriend?" he asked quietly. The guy nodded. "Fine. *IF* you cooperate and tell us what we need to know, I'll give you an hour to hike out of town. Because then I start hunting and if I catch you, you're gonna die painfully. Got it?" They all looked scared and he smirked a bit. "Let me remind you of Sunnydale, gentlemen. I'm sure you've all heard the rumors by now." They all moaned and he got them into the cars, taking them to a more discreet area. Xander faced the vampire boyfriend again, staring him down. "If you tell the boss there everything you know, it's your option. You have the most to lose."
He swallowed and looked at his boyfriend, who was cuffed but sitting down next to him. He looked at Gibbs. "What did you want to know and can I have an extension if no busses are running at that point in time?"
Gibbs nodded. "Sure. If you're here by the next sundown you're history." That got a quick nod. "Let's go talk. You two talk to these ones." He led him off, finding out everything he knew. He wasn't very high up but he had heard some things. He also found out who he was so he could note that he was still living in the private files Abby was keeping. He came back and found Xander whining about playing 'the stake game' and Tony telling him torture was wrong. "Kids!" They both looked at him. "Did you find out anything?"
Xander looked at the guy he had been working on. "Looks like your time just ran out, Pretty Boy here won't be able to save you now. Tell him what you know now or I do get to play the stake game." He pulled out a slim, very sharp stake and positioned it after tapping a few times. "Right there should be good." He started to give it a little shove, just an inch, and the vampire wailed, telling him everything he wanted to know. The others chimed in when Xander looked at them. When they were done and dusted, he pouted. "That's no fun."
"You're an odd kid," Tony said, giving him a nudge to the head. "What were you going to do, slowly push it in?"
"An inch or three off to the side of the heart. Then you pull it out and start again a few inches away, like up the curve a bit. I've had one who made me go all the way around his heart and start again before he spilled." Gibbs stared at him in open-mouthed shock. "He had Willow stashed somewhere and we didn't know where and couldn't find her any other way. So I captured him and found out where she was before she was sold into slavery as the concubine of some really large, disgusting thing with slime."
"Makes sense to me," Tony noted, walking back to the car. He looked at the boyfriend, unlocking him too. "Chase him, kid."
"I'd rather not be that dead," he said quietly.
"That's a decision for you to make," Xander told him seriously. "If you decide not to, then go to church tomorrow. Take communion. It'll counter anything he's tainted you with until now. Of course, if you've drank any of his blood, expect to be righteously ill and in pain for a few days afterward, but that'll end when the taint's burned off." The kid nodded and headed home. "He's got a hard choice to make," he sighed. "I know people who would have went with their lover."
Gibbs patted him on the back. "We all do. If my first wife had asked, I might have." He walked him back to the cars. "What's the new tattoo of?"
Xander undid the first few buttons, showing it to him. Gibbs laughed and walked off. Tony looked then grinned. "Taz, I should've known."
"You thought I'd get a hyena or something? Taz is animal enough for me. Besides, I've got Animal on my thigh." He walked off with him. "We did okay tonight."
"We did. Where's the townhouse?" Xander whispered it in his ear, getting a smirk. "That's in the middle of the club district."
"Hence me not having to pay parking fees for the bike most of the time and it'll be easier on the bad nights to make it home drunk."
"You do that?"
"Now and then. Sometimes it's easier than remembering sober."
"What happened to that last ex anyway?"
"She died in the assault in the Hellmouth. Her, Spike, a few others." He shrugged. "She'd be laughing her ass off at the moment. Giles thinks that Willow's using magic again so he's getting her straightened out and she may be back sometime in the future when she's clean." Tony looked confused. "For a magic user, you can become addicted to the feeling of the power running through you."
"I don't understand," he admitted.
"Take me home and I'll show you. To the new place. Giles said he expected me to go there since he's packing the rest of everything and sending it over. I'll only have to go back tomorrow for the hidden stashes of stuff."
"What hidden stashes?"
"Oh, a few weapons he doesn't know I have and you'll never see unless it's a world-ending emergency."
"As in don't ask and it won't get you in trouble with whatever form of Internal Affairs you guys use."
"Ah. That's good to know. Where was it hidden before?"
"My floor, under the couch." He smirked at him, making it to the car first. "It comes in handy sometimes. That's also why none of you guys are ever going to see them unless it's critically necessary and there's no other way."
"Fine. Thank you for that consideration." He unlocked the car and they got in. "That is a nicer neighborhood."
"It is and it's a fairly spacious townhouse with very thick walls." Tony smiled at that, starting the car and heading back to Xander's new place. They walked in and Xander turned on the lights, showing the navy blue pinstriped wallpaper in the foyer. "Yeah, the last person was a bit heavy handed. I'm not sure if I'm changing it or not yet." He walked him back to the dining room area, then sat down on a comfy pillow in front of his altar. He lit the candles and said a quick prayer, then motioned Tony closer. "Sit, get comfy." Tony took off his shoes and sat and Xander put a hand over his, holding it steady while he chanted. Tony flinched once but didn't move his hand as something warm touched it. Slowly it invaded his hand, making it tingle and the warmth rush up his arm, making him feel happy, stronger, and calmer. "That's what they get addicted to. That feeling. Only they use darker magic," he near-whispered, changing the magic to a darker feeling power, watching him shiver and moan a bit. He canceled it and looked at him. "That's why people become addicted."
"I can see why." He looked at his hand, then wiped it on his thigh and looked at him. "Do you get that?"
"When I'm actively working on something. I've got to do the wards here tonight. It's an earth magic that I use for those, which was what I showed you first. The second was something that blood-tainted people can do. Those who've spilled blood."
"Did you think that taking down the Initiative didn't include hurting some of the soldiers, Tony?" he asked quietly. "They were shooting at us, we were saving a friend. Yeah, I shot a few and I aimed to wound, but I did spill blood and ash that day." Tony nodded at that. "I'm assuming it resonated because you've had to fire in the line of duty." Tony nodded. "I'm sorry. I know that's hard."
"It's been a while but it is," he agreed. "Thank you for showing me."
"Just remember those feelings. Anything that feels like the last one is usually bad. Not always, but usually. There's some helping and prayer sacrificial rites that include animal sacrifices that would feel nearly the same to you. I know that some of the Voodun rites feel that same way to me, even their healing ones."
"Wow." He shifted a bit, getting more comfortable. "I never even thought we'd have to deal with that. By the way, the candle's still going."
"I figured it might. Every now and then I seem to make an everlasting flame, especially if I haven't used it in a while. I'll gather it sometime later. Or put it in a small glass container and feed it wood every now and then. Like a memorial flame."
"I can do that," he offered with a grin. "Show me around?" Xander nodded, taking him to the kitchen, then the living room, then upstairs to the practice area and the bedroom. Tony noticed the layout and the acoustics of the room. "A former musician?"
"A tuba player. A goth tuba player." Tony laughed at that. "Giles said the realtor said he was a really nice guy but apparently he knew it was coming and left town before the hellmouth opened." He grinned at him as a few more boxes appeared, then Giles, who sighed in relief. "Did you remember the chips or should I run out?" Giles glared at him so he beamed. "Thank you, Giles."
"I didn't forget them, they're in the kitchen and hopefully put up. By the way, your friend Bethany stopped by and I told her you were moving this way but not the address. A succubus, Xander? Really!"
"Sorry, but it's good stress relief and hey, I can't call some day and say 'guess what, I'm gonna be a daddy'." Giles shuddered at that. "Exactly. Therefore safe, kinky fun." He grinned at Tony. "I'm just showing him around. Did you touch my stash under the couch?" Giles nodded. "Where is it?"
"The attic. I wouldn't take him up there and I want to know where you got those."
"Mostly Wes left them to me. Along with all the rest of his stuff, which I'm calling for tomorrow. I'm thinking about putting his Necronomicon next to my Stephen King collection, Giles, what do you think? I'm grouping by subject."
Giles moaned and made a 'shooing' motion. "Go away, Xander. I taught you better shelving skills than that." He looked at Tony. "We worked in the library for three years and he never learned the Dewey Decimal or the Library of Congress system."
Tony led Xander out. "Come on, let's get you fed."
"I cleaned out all the bad leftovers," Giles called.
"Thanks, I was going to do that tomorrow before I called for more." Xander grinned at him. "I still don't cook that often."
"Me either." He led the way back into the kitchen, looking around. "It doesn't have a toaster?"
"There's a broiler on the stove." Xander moved to check the cabinets. "Hey, he gave me Willow's food as well."
"Yes, and the basement has her computer equipment set up already," Giles called as he joined them. "The books are all in with your altar, which I see you've already used?"
"I had to explain why people use magic to him."
"Ah. That's fine then. Are you going to have enough room here for Wesley's collection? I know he had nearly as many books as I have."
"He has about a storage space full of books," Xander admitted. "I'm buying bookshelves with the leftover funds. I'm also going to ask someone like Peabody to work an extra space charm in that unusable room next to the downstairs bathroom." Giles frowned at him. "I'm not good at them. I'm better at protection and those things. I figure we can trade off since I heard him swearing about his artifacts going wonky." He grinned at him and grabbed a soda out of the fridge. "Hey, it works! Everything's the right temperature!" Tony snickered at that. "My old one never was. I've never had a fridge that worked right!" He checked everything. "I see she went shopping again yesterday."
"Yes. She thought it for the best so you wouldn't starve. She ordered it and it showed up while she was leaving. Were you thinking about learning the computer things she knew?"
"No, but Abby is a hacker," he offered with a grin.
"McGee's better," Tony admitted, getting his own soda and holding it up to Giles, who shook his head, so he tossed him some water. "He's like super hacker."
"Yeah, Willow said he was the next class down from her," he admitted dryly, smirking a bit at him. "Is he really sorry yet?"
"Quite. Ducky threatened to take a strap to him for it."
"That's nicer than what I would've done, especially if he got turned." Xander hopped up to sit on the counter, looking at them. "Okay, so welcome to the new lair. Of course you guys get fridge rights, Tony. Giles, Eliana is coming when?"
"The week after next. I left her mother's address on your altar. I also blew out the candle just now." Xander nodded at that. "Did you find out anything tonight?"
"Gibbs did. He's treating this like finding the root cause of a terrorist cell," Tony told him. "We had one kid who was still human and his boyfriend was a vamp."
"We gave him until tomorrow night to get out of town, with or without his boyfriend. Then I talked to his boyfriend for a few and told him what to do if he didn't go." He sipped his soda. "I got to play the stake game with another one and they told Gibbs everything he needed to know."
"Good. You always did have a way with interrogation of the worst things." Giles frowned a bit. "I'm not sure if I should be upset that you can do that or not."
Xander shrugged. "Like Popeye, I am what I am."
"Good point." He sipped his water, looking around. "Are you going to redecorate?"
"I'm not sure. I'll live with it for a few days before I decide. I was about to paint over the sunny yellow in the other place." Giles smiled at that. "Sue me, I'm happier in the darker atmospheres. I was never a 'white' person for decorating. Tans, blues, greens, but not white or off white. Too glaring." He looked at Tony. "You have a nice place. Where did you get the couch?"
"A store that's closed now," he admitted. "There's a few good spots in town. Didn't you bring the furniture?"
"I did, but I'll probably need more."
"You'll need a new bed. Neither one of your beds were any good," Giles told him. "I put both living room groups in your living room."
"I can sleep on the couch tonight then. Is the tv hooked up to the antenna yet?" Giles nodded. "Cool beans. So I call the cable company tomorrow. I call the utilities tomorrow and get the address changed." Giles shook his head. "Everything's on?"
"Everything but the cable. They can't come out for another two days."
"That's fine. I can live on an antenna that long. It's not like I need my HBO immediately." He looked at Tony. "You guys should come over this weekend."
"Sure. We'll have a cookout. Do you have a backyard?" Xander looked, then nodded, grinning at him. "Then you need a grill. And a toaster."
Xander smiled. "And a coffee maker since I don't have one."
"Blasphemer," Tony teased.
Xander smirked. "I live on cold caffeine."
"Gibbs lives on coffee," he reminded him. "He keeps Columbia in business some years."
Xander snickered at that. "I won't tell him you said that." He grinned at Giles. "Any other new news?"
"Angel wanted to know why you were sending him vampires."
"I was using him to teach the ones who didn't want to be a threat to the world. I figure he could mentor and it'd give new meaning to his life."
"Good point. You've found some?"
"Gibbs found one at the White House," Tony told him. "One of the guards." Giles shuddered. "That's why we did it that way."
"That is an excellent idea," he agreed. He shuddered again. "Someone there with some sense knows?"
"About this really ancient cult who lives the vampire ideal and kills? Yeah," Xander agreed, smirking a bit. "I'm generally admitted to being an expert on this cult."
"Even better. I'm sure some of our former residents are already here and have spread the word about you and our own group. Do you have anything coming up?"
"I don't know yet. I haven't checked the prophecy book in a week and Willow never said anything." He shrugged. "So, am I paying you rent?" Giles nodded. "I thought so. How much a month?"
"Half your monthly salary, Xander. That should leave you enough for your bike and insurance." Xander nodded. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Go visit Ducky's mother. She's getting closer and closer to fading," he said quietly.
"I had plans on doing that tomorrow anyway. Ducky's got tomorrow off so we were going to spend all day with his mother and each other."
"Good. I like Ducky and you're back to yourself again. I'm guessing the taint's still strong?"
"Unfortunately so. Eliana hasn't been there that long so she'll be fine. I'd like notes on that as well if you decide to study it." Xander nodded. "Thank you. Remember to keep a Chronicle and all that stuff."
"Of course. We're probably the most trained group ever seen." Giles smiled at that. "I'll be fine."
"Good. Then I'll go back to the other place and do one final check in the morning." He saluted them and headed out to catch a cab.
Tony looked at Xander. "He seems decent enough."
"At times. At others it's a tug of war about his favorite." He grinned and took another sip. "Which I'm not."
"I saw. He's helpful though and he seems to care, he's just got some odd ideas about it."
"It's a hierarchy really. On the top was Buffy, his slayer. Below her was Willow, his witchly student, and Tara, her former lover. When it's just me and him and he's acting normally, I get defacto head kid status. Besides, I personally think sending me here meant that I would leave his precious slayers alone and quit countermanding his orders in their training. Sending me here means that he can concentrate on the research and the training, which was his job. He's not ready to be the hunter I've had to become and he doesn't want to be. He's more than happy with an advisory role and that's what he wanted. With me in Sunnydale he had to take a more active part and I took the younger slayers out hunting with me for training, which took his authority now and then. He preferred a gentle initiation, starting with the theoretical. I took the new kids out and showed them what was going on. They came back shaken and crying but they got with the program and quit whining, planning on doing stupid stuff like sneaking out to go party, and the few who used drugs and alcohol quit really damn fast. It also stopped the sleeping around problem when one of the older girls ended up pregnant and I bitched her a new one. The ones I trained are now keeping the others in line."
"I can see how that'd be helpful. It's closer to the military mindset without taking away the individuality."
"You can't take away that, you lose creativity and those two traits are what make you last longer. That and being able to ask for help when you need it." He finished his soda and tossed it into the empty trash can. "Woohoo! My first piece of trash!" Tony laughed at that. "Okay, I should go arrange books if you wanted to help."
"A librarian I am not." He grinned. "What about this new collection?"
Xander just smirked. "I wrote Angel last night about it and he said I could call and he'd have a magic user out there forward it to me the same way Giles moved everything, demonic magic. I have no idea where I'm going to put it all, but it'll all be here as soon as I call later."
"Sure. I'll stay out of the attic until you hide them."
"I'd never put books up there. It's too easy to get a leak that you don't notice for a few days." Tony nodded at that and grinned again. "Come on, you can come see her setup."
"I should call McGee."
"If you want. Have him bring over Chinese." He opened the basement door and headed down, going to look around. He hadn't seen this area before. Giles had only let him see the living areas since they were on a deadline. He saw the computer setup, smirking a bit. She had come back to set it up herself. He logged in, hooking into the Watcher's satellite and finding his email. It had a few messages, including one from Angel. He sent one back and called. "I'm here, send 'em to the living room. I'm in the basement. There's another human somewhere in the house and another one coming soon." He hung up and went back to finishing his email for the week, sending one to Gibbs with his new address and that he was shelving books for the next day.
He heard a thump and a scream, getting up to find Tony backed into a corner by a large stack of boxes. "They're mostly books, crawl over them," he called. Tony gave him a dirty look and managed to get out. He went to the hall while Xander moved a coffee table out of the way. "Okay if there's more there's room right there!" he yelled. A few more things appeared, including his duffle bag and a note on top of it. "Thanks!" He felt the magic dissipate and opened the letter, smiling at the nice notice in side. "Hey, I can really afford bookshelves. I didn't know that Wesley's father had already died." Tony peeked in. "Since Wes was the only remaining kid, he inherited from his father and Wes left me everything because he said we were a lot alike. Angel had been storing it for me so they could use the books, but since he nearly died...." He shrugged. "It happens. But this means I have control of the Wyndham-Price estates as well." He called the old building, getting Giles after a moment. "I didn't realize Wes's father had already died." He listened then grinned. "Yeah, Angel sent a letter. So I have an estate in England. Cool. This means I can really afford dinner and bookshelves." He hung up. "He's not sure he wants me in England." He got up to answer the door, letting McGee and Abby in. "Come on in. I'm going to be shelving books." He took the chinese food. "How much?"
"Twenty." Xander handed him his wallet so he dug it out. "Computers? I've heard of Willow and I wanted to see her setup."
"Downstairs. I'll get you your own logon to the satellite in a few days." He closed the door after checking outside. "No Gibbs. Cool." He closed the door and looked at Tony, grinning as he headed back to the kitchen. He pointed at the door for Abby's benefit and got a hug. "I got a job at Pyro."
"I heard and I like the hair." She kissed him on the cheek before going down there and squealing in delight. "You have more computer stuff than I do at work!"
Xander pulled out the food to check, handing Tony a carton. "I figured you for a wonton guy."
"I like 'em," he admitted, following the duo down there while Xander went to heft and tote his things to his bedroom and the rest to the rooms they'd go in. He heard the doorbell and the basement door be closed, but figured it was Xander protecting them. A few minutes later he felt some magic and shivered, wiggling his shoulders a bit. It felt tingly like the earth magic but it felt...slimy and wrong somehow too. He looked at Abby, who was giving him an odd look. "Magic."
"Oh. Okay." She got back to work looking at the system. "I can't believe she hooks into an external DVD burner and copier. That's so much easier than burning one and then copying repeatedly." McGee nodded, going to look at the next piece of hardware. "Ooh, what's that?"
Xander came down the stairs. "We have enough room for the bookshelves." He looked at the pointed at spot. "That's a small herb and substance identifier. All I know is that she puts stuff in and it tells her what it is."
"You have lab equipment?" McGee asked.
"No, she had lab equipment. I just stand there and look awed as she used it." Abby hugged him. "Feel free to borrow."
"Thank you." She got back to poking around, finding the rest of the lab equipment still in the boxes. "She was setting up a major lab."
"She was a wiccan, I'm guessing she was going to use it to make potions. Not that she didn't need to study that area more. She was always messing up something magically."
"That last journal we borrowed had something about the 'will' spell," Tony admitted, shaking his head. He looked at him. "So, where do we have more room?"
"I had him expand one wall behind the tv. We should be able to put all the books up on it." Tony grinned at that. "I still only have half of them."
"The rest were upstairs in the training area," Tony offered. "I looked in there again and I saw more than Giles had dropped."
"Cool. I guess I can put some up there." The doorbell rang and he went up to answer it, letting Gibbs in. "Hey, we're in the basement." He checked outside before closing the door. "I'm wondering who's watching the house. Did you send anyone?"
"My boss. She thinks you're part of that cult and sucking us in."
"Not hardly. Though if I'm turned, I'd take you, Tony, and Abby with me." He walked him back downstairs. "I'm going to work on the wards." Abby nodded and Tony just shrugged. So he went back to work on warding the house and keeping it eavesdropping, spy gear, and scry proof. He loved the paranoid Russian warlock who had taught him the anti spy gear spells.
Gibbs came back. "Where did the rest of this stuff come from?"
"An inheritance. A former friend and coworker who thought I'd turn into him. He's right, I am a lot like him, but he left me all his stuff. Which means I have an estate in England now," he said proudly. Gibbs smiled at that. "It's pretty. He showed me pictures. I have no idea where it is yet, but it's pretty." He got to work shelving books. "The training room's upstairs and on this side of the house. Do not go into the attic, I have the weapons up there."
"That's fine. I've seen your collection before."
Xander looked at him. "No, I meant I have the rocket launcher, the six hand grenades, the C-4, and that stuff in the attic. I have to hide it again." Gibbs stared, blinking a few times. "Now and then it takes an anti-tank grenade. Some things are just that big."
"Sure. That's good to know. Can she hear with a parabolic microphone?" Xander just smirked and shook his head, handing over the book. "What's this? Magic?" He handed it back like it was coated in something. "Not my thing."
"Made by a paranoid Russian warlock. He taught me a bit." He shelved that book. "Then again, you're mostly immune to magic so anything you say may still be picked up. I'll fix that before you come over next time." He found Wesley's fun reading collection and blushed. "I don't want to know that much about his smutty side." He put those against the wall and went back to the technical books. Angel had sorted it by section.
Gibbs looked around the house, learning the layout. He did peek in the attic and saw some familiar looking boxes, but he didn't want to know. So he pulled down the shades up there and went back to the training room. There was a large mirror on one wall. The weren't any mats on the floor but there was a stack underneath some boxes. He peeked inside one and grimaced, closing the box again. He didn't need to know about magic stuff. He felt something wash over the house and it felt very peaceful. Then he shook his head.
"Don't fight it," Xander called. "It's to protect what we say in here."
He quit fighting it and the peaceful feeling came back, slowly fading to leave him a bit happier. He continued to pry and poke around, finding the battle axe again. That thing fascinated him. It was too heavy for him but it was fascinating. It was pure silver and had been etched by someone without a lot of art skills. It was still a beautiful weapon and very sharp he realized when he cut the finger that he had run across the blade. He sucked on that and went back downstairs, finding him still cataloging. "Need help? I can get Abby and McGee to help you."
"They're playing in the computer and lab area. Abby found the machine that tells you what something is." He got back to work, smiling at him. "How many boxes upstairs?"
"About fifty. Some were books. I peeked in on one. It had that magic stuff on top."
"Yeah, Wes practiced too." He smiled and started to heft books up. "I'll reorganize once I see if I need more shelves. That way I know where everything is. Besides, Angel packed by section. Porn before Programming Beasts and all that. He even numbered boxes. Mine'll fit in later."
Gibbs sat down and looked at the wall of books. "Something seems off."
"That's because the wall is magically stretched, you should see a small distortion just past the tv."
"Yeah, I guess that's it. It's like looking at it through a heat shimmer off the highway."
"That's about how it should look."
"How did you do that?"
"I asked for a favor and agreed he could copy any of the books I had on certain types of magic. Plus he could come to me for warding help if his stuff started to be set off by the hellmouth again." He shelved another box and checked it before putting it aside and sitting down with the letter that had been inside with his name on it. He sniffled and nodded. "Of course I will, Wes. This new Hellmouth won't be like our old one and I'm never going to throw away my own people." He folded it up and put it aside then got back to work.
"Who was he?"
"He was the guy who came out to replace Giles when the Council fired him as Buffy's Watcher. He was a stuffy guy, barely out of his education," he admitted with a sad grin. "I could see that spark of wildness in him but he kept pushing the stuffy guy image. We mostly ignored him because he was giving us orders that were counterproductive. He wised up after graduation and Angel eventually ended up working with him a few years later. In those years he had been injured, grown up, and become a guy that I could admire. So when I ran into him again, we became buddies and penpals. He kept me sane through a lot of that stuff. Including when Willow went bad. He always said I could turn out like him but he didn't want me to make the same mistakes he did. So we talked a lot and he left me all his stuff, including the estate in England. When I get a chance to go on vacation or retire I'll head over. Angel's letter said he had someone watching it for me. Especially their library since his daddy was a Watcher and they've been Watchers for generations."
"They made him go into the family business?" Xander nodded. "How did he die?"
"Saving the world from another bad guy. Self sacrifice from what I heard from Angel. I wasn't in LA that day, we were fighting with the First Evil. That was just before I lost my eye," he said quietly. "The one thing he taught me was to always judge someone on their full personality and all their actions, not just their present ones. We had this problem of bad people being forced to go good and then turning back to bad once they were free, then being forced to go good again. We also had some people who were good who went bad and then came back. He taught me how people can break and what that means about their actions and how to think about certain matters, like magic. He's the one who encouraged me to learn when I went to him about a protection charm for my pitiful ass during my road trip. He also taught me about succuba and those class of demons," he offered with a grin. "The man was like a big brother in a lot of ways."
"Then you lost him."
"I did, but so did everyone else. He was a part of Angel's team for a lot of years. They still miss him too." He got back to work shelving.
McGee came in, looking at the wall of books. "How many of those have you read?"
"Bits and pieces of most of them," he admitted. "Research in these fields means more bits and pieces than full books most of the time. He didn't have much computer stuff but he did have some stuff if you wanted to look." He pointed back down the row. "Past the smut. That's all the stuff I won't be using that often."
"You don't use computers?"
"I once tried to do research online for a paper on cat breeds for an english assignment and came up with kitty and people porn, Fluffy. The internet is not my friend. I know my areas and I can do my email, find the smut I want, and find places and things casually. Willow was internet girl."
"Sure." He went to go look. "He was learning Fortran?"
"Possibly. Either that or they had a demon who was using it in his attacks," he said absently. "Wes had eclectic tastes." He looked over, noticing the blush. "Yeah, that's his smut collection. You can borrow one if you want but I want it back in the same condition."
The boy shook his head and walked off again, going to hide with Abby.
"Tell Pretty Boy the same thing!" he called after him, making Gibbs laugh. "Or you, Gibbs."
"That's okay, I don't need that sort of stimulation."
"Hey, old guys in nursing homes get some, you can too," Xander said dryly. "It's all good to me." Gibbs laughed some more. "Tony ordered me to get a coffee pot and toaster, but for right now there's water, soda, and beer in the fridge."
"Thanks." He went to get himself something, coming back to hand Xander his food. "Eat."
"Sure." He inhaled the rest of his food then got back to work.
Tony stuck his head into the room. "Just don't tell us if you read any of those tonight since you said you're sleeping on the couch." He went upstairs. "Should I bring down more of them?"
"That'd be nice, thank you." He continued to empty boxes and put things up where he wanted them. He'd hide the weapons later. That's why he put a book down about concealment spells.
Gibbs looked up about a month later, looking at his team and Xander. They were back at Xander's house for this meeting. "We've got a problem coming. There's someone looking to take control of the town and we can't get near him."
Xander leaned back, frowning a bit. "Who?"
"Myst is what he's called."
"I've heard about him," he admitted. "He's one of the top Masters in the city." He grimaced and considered it. "How would we get close?"
"He's running a goth club downtown," Abby offered. "He's there about every night. I don't go in there most of the time but I have in the past. It's a lot more heavy metal goth than I am. I think he also thinks he's a dom because he's got handcuffs and stuff hanging off the walls. A real torture chamber atmosphere."
Xander nodded. "I've been in there. Which one was he?"
"The redhead who's not much older looking than you." She looked at him. "I don't think I could handle going in there knowing what I know."
Xander nodded. "I can agree to that." He looked at Gibbs. "What about you, Boss?"
"I agree we need to go in. You're probably out best bet, Xander. He can tell you're alive but you're also one who acts like a master vampire should most of the time. I've seen you doing it at work." Xander nodded. "So that leaves me, who's way too old, Ziva, who's still got a sprained ankle, or McGee if Abby won't go."
"Or me," Tony noted.
"Your arm is still sore."
"So?" He stood up. "I can go undercover, Boss. I'm good at it."
"You can be," he admitted. "That would mean you playing minion to Xander though." Tony shrugged. "How's your arm?"
"Sore, but I'll live. It was only a graze and only two stitches."
Xander looked at him. "You're thinking about sending us in to gather information?"
"Or to take him out if necessary," Gibbs noted. Xander nodded at that. "That would be your decision at that time. We'd also like to have his files and things."
"Ah. A real _True Lies_ job then," he said, getting it. "Sure. I'm up for it. We can go my next night off if we need to." He looked at Tony. "Which would be Friday. That good for you?" Tony nodded. "I thought you were summoned home for a wedding?"
"I fly out Saturday morning and I can sleep on the plane." He looked at Gibbs, sitting down again. "Just surveillance for now, Boss?" That got a nod. "We can do that and then make up a plan after a few nights."
"Sure, but I get to dress you," Xander told him. "Otherwise you'll stand out a lot."
"Fine. You and Abby can dress me." Abby grinned at him. "You two can try to hack him from here?"
"I've been trying, he's got a firewall that's nearly impenetrable," McGee complained. "I need a way past it and the encryption stuff I've got with Willow's computers isn't enough."
"I called Willow and she's coming back to help," Abby told him. "She's got a new one to try out."
"That'll be nice. We're still five steps beyond what the FBI Computer Task Force has." He looked at Gibbs. "Where is Ziva?"
"Meeting with the vampire she's dating," Xander told them. "I caught her last night, Gibbs. I'm not sure if it's bad taste or not. She didn't see me and I don't think he's pumping her for information, but I'm not taking that chance."
"That's what you wanted to meet about?" He nodded. "Good. She's usually too smart and savy to let someone pump her for information but I'll keep that in mind. Do you know who he is?"
"Not a clue. I gave Abby a composite and she was searching earlier."
"Captain Jonathan Pryce," she announced. "Navy." Gibbs moaned. "He's not in any trouble, he's been reporting to duty recently, but he's on night shift and on an inside job. He's in Supply and Requisition at Bethesda."
"Which means he hears about the amount of attacks, if not each attack, when they happen," Xander told her. "No one minds those guys counting in cabinets."
"True," Gibbs agreed. "I'll talk to her tomorrow," he noted. "Tony, you're going to have to do this for a few weeks probably. Are you sure?"
"I'm sure, Boss. I can handle it."
"Good. This sort of person usually seems to know a lot about their enemies and cohorts so I'll expect to get information on them as well."
"If at all possible," Xander noted quietly. "I'll need the dohickey to plug into his system, Fluffy."
"Sure. I can get one of those easily enough. How would you get it in there?"
"Magic if I had to."
"Decent. Watch out for him having a mainframe as well. What I've seen hints of shows he might have mainframe hidden, not just a desktop," Abby told him.
"If it gets that complicated, we'll take Fluffy with us one night and say it's your birthday. Since most everyone knows you're dating Abby that should cover," Xander told him. McGee nodded at that. "That good with you, Boss?"
"You plan well enough in the field, I'll let you get away with it as long as I get told." Xander nodded, accepting that. "Any other problems we've got?"
Abby raised a hand. "I heard Tony muttering about magic at work the other day," she offered.
Tony nodded. "We have a Wiccan on staff in the secretarial pool and they were down there working something, it made me shoulders ache. Did anyone else hear me?" She shook her head. "I'll keep that in mind. By the way, Boss, your elevator is presently having sex with a security camera. I saw them putting up one the other day. I'm worried about baby cameras coming to be in and around the office."
"I saw. The one in the corner?"
"No, I saw him working on the panel," Tony told him seriously. "The Director is starting to freak."
"Can we tail her?" Xander asked. "She's either onto the case or she's trying to snoop and if she's that blatant then someone's following her."
"I can start doing that," Gibbs agreed.
"Maybe she's found a guy, like Ziva did," Abby offered with a grin for him.
"Bad thought, Abs. I'm not sure that woman doesn't fake it anymore," Xander told her. "It's all politics and that's taking her heat now."
"She didn't used to," Gibbs admitted, sipping his coffee. He'd gotten used to a blunt Xander over the last few weeks. "Any other problems?"
"Yeah, Ziva wasn't at work today, Boss," McGee reminded him.
"I called, she's alive," he told him. "She had a doctor's appointment. She told me a week ago." McGee nodded at that. "Why are you worried about her still?"
"Because she's seen and doesn't believe," Xander pointed out. "She's seen it and it's like we're still kids playing a game to her. She's leaving herself open to too much."
Gibbs considered it. "I don't think she's ever encountered any of this before, kid."
"She should have. The Mossad uses witches. There's a huge vampire population in Israel. If she was in intelligence, she would have had to run into it. Besides, she and the director get together a lot and it's sparking the danger sense in me."
"It's not like they're going to raid you."
"You don't know that. You said yourself that the director has watched this place." He stared Gibbs down. "I'm definitely an outsider to the playpen."
"Good point. I'll head her off with a higher up," he noted. He went to make a few calls from the kitchen. Her boss told him what Xander suspected was true and why. He told him more about what was going on. He had been briefed by the president and Gibbs laid it out for him. He promised to distract the director and her investigation. He went back into the living room with a sigh of complaint. "She's investigating you. She thinks you're part of the cult and dragging us in."
"Wonderful. What did whoever have to say about that?"
"He thinks I should stake someone in front of her and then tell her."
"We can do that," Xander offered. "I have in the past."
"No, I'd better do that." He finished his coffee. "You two get together about your undercover assignment. Abby, McGee, get with Willow about the levels of encryption. I'm going to deal with her and Ziva." He left, going to find his former lover. He found her right outside and used something he had found in Xander's kitchen cabinet to gas her. Then he got in and slid her over, taking her to a cemetery.
To part 2