Tony leaned back in his chair, smiling at everyone sitting around the table. "Welcome to the new tower. It's blessed ground so we're all good here until I have to kill something in the building." That got some smiles. "As you can see, all the old library is over here and the 'rent's one is across the hall. There's a few more tables over there if we run out of room." He smiled at the older members. Then at the new members. "Because I'm so old I'm not taking the name Volka formally. It'll be like a title for me, but we do have to talk about heirs. There's four direct line heirs - Mac, Don, me, and Ryan. Someone's got to carry on the next generation. Yes, Ryan, I do know you're OCD. It isn't a genetically transmitted disease and we can help any and all of your kids."
"I'm not even dating," he complained.
"There's ways around that," Mac pointed out.
"I have sperm in three banks and they're not being used," Tony told him. That got a few snickers. "Ancelin thinks it's a plot by the bored minions of evil." His grandmother faded in, hugging Charlet. "Which name do you want to go by?"
"Kermit's fine. It's easier if I don't have to switch. The people I work with only know me as Kermit. Even if Peter and his father do have hints I'm not the average man now and then." He smiled at the ghost. "We have missed you floating around since Peter got pissed at your voyeurism moments."
"I have bad timing. I came to talk to you."
"She kept coming around when I was bedding someone too," Vorchain offered. He smirked at Don. "You do look much like her Volka, while Ryan looks exactly like her Chauvis."
"There's been a lot of rebirths in this generation," Ancelin told him.
"Is there a reason why?" Horatio asked.
She considered it. "I would have to say it's because we're changing the structure so much. The first generation and my Volka's generation were some of the strongest. We had some of the greater changes in centuries during my life. Now we come upon a higher level of change. Of course we'd want the strongest of all of us back."
"That brings up a few points," Tony admitted. "There's been a lot of dealing going on up on Capitol Hill for favors and power. McGee and Abby hacked for us, along with what Kermit found. We need to go over those records and talk about making some of the books more accessible for the farther flung members. I can hire someone to put them onto CD. That's what I was thinking about. It'd mean less running up here to grab a reference book."
"It's easier now than it had been," Vorchain told him. "Before it was a few day's ride leading the demon the whole way." Kermit nodded at that. "Plus you never knew which house had the book you needed until Chauvis retired. Now all you have to do is board a plane and wait."
"Yes but if they're strong enough to bring down a plane there's no way for you to survive," Tony reminded him. That got a nod. "Or at least the rest of us to survive." He looked at Horatio. "That would help you teach your nephew as well."
"Plus my niece. Her mother is still sobbing about what we found out. She admitted she had a few visions and they freaked her out. She started using drugs to close them off so she wouldn't have to see things." Ryan put his head down, getting a pat on the back. "She understands now and I know my grandmother had a recipe for a tea that inhibited that skill. I was going to look it up this weekend."
Ancelin looked at him then shook her head. "It could hurt more if she doesn't see it."
"It's that or she goes back to drugs. At which time I'd have to take her daughter from her. She'd die from it, Ancelin," he said gently. "I'm not suggesting she take it all the time."
She grimaced. "If I remember right it's in a maroon bound book. Of course that's about seven of them in the back section."
"We'll help him look," Abby promised. "That would be another benefit of putting them on CD. Doing a very fast index search. We could even put the table of contents on a separate CD so you could search them faster." Horatio smiled and nodded at that. She looked at Tony. "Did Ducky give you a good idea?"
"He did," he agreed. "I wrote them a letter of interest yesterday." He looked at the others. "Would anyone feel offended if we did that? You're still more than welcome to come here to research but if something happened we'd have a hell of a time replacing the books since quite a few were journals and things." They all shrugged. "Okay, then I'll work on that project once I find someone. I will make it clear the information is not to get out until I'm ready for it. Then we'll make up packs of books for everyone." That got a mass nod. "Vorchain, has anything happened that we need to know about?"
"Not really. The demon population has increased some but so has the human population and it would follow."
"We've had one in New York recently," Don offered. "We need to figure out how to banish or kill it."
"I find rocket launchers work," Xander offered. Horatio gave him an odd look. "It does!"
Blair patted him on the back. "We'll talk about artillery versus swords later, Xander." Xander beamed at him. "Xander lives on a hellmouth and works with a watcher/slayer pair, plus a witch."
"Even Ziva couldn't believe that one set was real," Tony told Xander, who nodded.
"Me either. I almost asked to check. Instead I went to entertain others."
"You did lighten her mood very well," Ryan assured him. "She hasn't growled since then." Horatio swatted him.
"I'll teach you how to do that better later," Gibbs told him, making Horatio laugh.
"Works on us," Abby agreed. She looked at Ryan. "Do you still have Ancelin's journal?" He slid it down the table to her. "Thank you. I'm reading my ancestor's journal and he's got his but it's a good cross reference. I'll be done with it by Sunday, Mac and Don. Then you guys can borrow it."
Don looked at Ancelin. "I'm reborn, aren't I?" She gave him a sad smile. "Why not you?"
"Part of the curse the priest who interfered with our great-grandson's wedding laid," she said bitterly. "Until Mac intervened I couldn't go near Ryan at all."
"I saw you a few times when you watched me," he admitted. He smiled at Don. "Dreams?"
"Stranger ones since she first floated into Mac's office. A lot of hunting, a few spankings, and a lot of snuggling." She blushed and disappeared. He looked at Ryan. "Do you get those?"
"A few other scenes. Holding my son. I keep seeing how I died now and then too." He shrugged. "I guess it happens to all of us." He looked at Tony, who shrugged. "No?"
"I don't sleep enough to have those sort of dreams."
"He has nightmares," Abby told him.
"I can spank you too," Gibbs assured her. She gave him a look. "Especially for still having that imp."
"It's a good pet!" she defended.
"No it's not. It's a dangerous pet, Abby."
Horatio shook his head. "She has a pet imp?"
"She does and it comes to work with us," Tony said dryly, shaking his head. "It keeps stealing all our chocolate stashes too. I nearly stabbed your pet the last time. Ziva had PMS."
"I told him to give it to her."
"He did, the stuff he was chewing on," Gibbs told her.
"Never mind. I'll train him better. I promise."
"I can help you with that. After all, I did train many leopard and wolf cubs to be very good helpers," Vorchain offered. She beamed and nodded. "We'll work on it this weekend. The others can research. I'm not one for books."
"Please, no one babble at me about books," Xander moaned, putting his head down on the table. Blair stroked through his hair, getting a smile. "Giles lectures," he said miserably. "Buffy doesn't even listen to him."
"You're more than welcome to come back to Cascade. Simon said he's not mad at you for flirting with him." Xander beamed. "We were going to go over the current and recent threats?" he suggested.
"We are," Tony agreed. "Horatio, the one in Florida we took care of?"
"Gone," he agreed. "The two who were doing the sacrificing are in jail and the prosecutor knows that they were in some satanic cult." That got a mass of nods and a few smiles.
"I want to know how you got Tony from the elevator," Gibbs ordered.
"Willow magic," Xander said with a shrug. "Ask the witchly one if Tony doesn't turn her back into a mouse."
"The changeling powder works very well," Tony joked. "She makes a nice white mouse." They all smiled at that, Kermit shaking his head. "You'd have to experience Willow, Kermit."
"She's in England," Xander said bluntly. "We just buried her girlfriend." He shifted and winced. "I'm still sore from what she threw at me when I was stopping her from destroying the world."
"I felt the soul's shudder," Vorchain admitted, leaning forward. "Is it rehidden, Xander?" He nodded. "Fully?"
"Fully. We're working on her grief. She wouldn't let it go. She flayed someone with her magic. Her addiction got worse and they broke up. They were getting together when Tara died," he finished tiredly. "It's been a long few days."
"I've got tylenol and things in the cabinet," Tony promised him. "Plus we can call Ducky. He knows enough about the strange things to summon imps who make him tea."
Xander smiled. "Thanks, Tony." He put his head back down on the table. "Should we start with my past issue?"
"Go ahead," Vorchain agreed. "I remember hearing of them." He got into the stack of folders, tossing one down to him.
"I don't need that. I was there when they were ended." Xander stood up. "In the past year and a half we've had a government project that came to Sunnydale to work on the demon issue," he announced. Everyone moaned and Horatio shuddered. "No, it's worse than you think. They wanted the demons to be the new foot soldiers in the grunt positions. They didn't care what they were naturally like. It came in two parts. The first part was run by a fairly bad shrink named Doctor Walsh. Her people captured and penned demons for experimentation and other things without caring if they were dangerous, children, or even average demons. They got a werewolf who had some control over his change so there's a rumor going around it's not related to the moon cycle when it is."
"How did they capture him if he wasn't furry?" Kermit asked.
"His girlfriend swore she'd wait on him while he went to Tibet to find control," Xander said. "She didn't. He went furry on her girlfriend Tara." That got another few groans. "They tasered him and drug him off when that happened. They also put behavior chips in vampires' heads. We have Spike, childe of Angelus, as our vampire pet thanks to them. The chip made it so he can't hunt or hurt humans. He can hurt demons. He can drink if it's offered in a cup. He's an annoying bitch who puts blood in my cereal so he can steal it when I have to keep his leash due to Giles getting some. We treat him fairly badly by tying him in my recliner or chaining him in Giles' bathtub when he's there. He's annoying. He's depressed, but we needed someone with vamp strength and connections because we lost Angel to LA when he couldn't keep it in his pants and away from Buffy. That way he wouldn't lose his soul again."
"He slipped it?" Vorchain demanded. "We worked very hard on that soul spell."
"He got the happies after he laid Buffy for her birthday," Xander said dryly. Vorchain gaped at that. He nodded. "We ended up having a few problems. He tried to end the world and Buffy wasn't up to stopping him. I had to lie to her about Willow retrying the resouling spell because he had opened the portal to hell. So he had a trip and she's still growling at me about it when it comes up."
"Is he back?" Horatio asked.
"He's back. The soul stuck a few seconds before she finished sending him. He's in LA running a PI firm with another Sunnydale refugee and a few others. I'm sure we have something in that stack of Wolfram and Hart. He might like that information if we could find more. Anyway," he sighed. "Walsh's plans were stopped when her creature killed her. She had taken soldier and demon parts to make a creature as the ultimate soldier. It killed her. Then the military took over to run it and work on it. We found out she had chipped her own people. Riley was a team leader but he changed over after dating Buffy. Not that he and Spike don't still growl at each other. It came down to a final battle out there. Buffy called the first slayer, we all fought with them. She killed ADAM and it was all gooey afterward. They wouldn't even come back for the bodies, they told us to go in and get them when they saw parts. I did that as respectfully as I could even though they were trying to destroy our group and possibly kill us. Those who came out for the Glory stuff came out about three months after that." He sat down. "Any remaining ones were sucked into the UN's new hunting patrols or the FBI has a few."
"They weren't charged?" Gibbs asked.
"The guys in charge might have been. I don't know," Xander said, sliding down the folder. "Sorry, I'm grunt support and her gear guy. Giles doesn't fix crossbows so I do. I also manage to get her artillery when she needs it. Angel had put together the pieces of the Judge and I got to break into the local reserve base for a surface to air missile system for her. It worked, it got him back into blobs. We baggied each blob separately and Giles sent them off somewhere."
"What else have you guys done?" Kermit asked.
"Let's see. Vamps, some minor demons. Someone training hellhounds to hate formal gowns. An ascension for graduation. There's now two slayers but one's in jail after she woke up and was still bad. Joyce died so I've technically got custody of Dawn since I'm older than Buffy and she's not working. Giles wasn't there for the hearing so I stepped up. She lives with Buffy but they're at odds at the moment. I'm about to kick Dawn's ass for shoplifting for attention. Again. Spike's caring for her at the moment more than a few others are. There was the Glory thing you guys helped with and it did make sure the First Evil prophecies couldn't happen?"
"It did," Vorchain promised.
"Good." He sighed in pleasure. "Angel handles more things, usually brought on by the law firm for Hell. We did get to see Druscilla again recently. She had a 'my poor love' wail over Spike's chip. Dawn went off on her and made her leave him alone. Now she wants to adopt Dawn as a future childe and Spike's probably still swearing about it. She still wants me to be her dark kitten. She threatened to turn me many times so she could play with my pretty insides. Is anything else in that stack coming our way? If not, I'm taking Dawn to Cascade for a while so she's got time to grieve and so does Buffy. Buffy's being supported by Giles but it's not helping Dawn any. I think some common sense could help her and Blair's friend Simon can give me some pretty good tips since his son's a decent kid with a good future."
"Not that I know of," Kermit offered. "How is Buffy handling her duties?"
"We're twenty. She got called at fifteen," he said bluntly. Kermit sat up, staring at him. "She had people who helped - me and Willow. Sometimes Oz or Cordy. Angel originally and now Spike. The problem she's having now is the Council. They're starting to hint she's too old. Giles thinks they might try to wet works her. They tried it on Faith."
Kermit nodded. "They have when a girl got called and was too far past her prime as they considered it."
"Another good reason to get Dawn out of the way," he said dryly. "Me too. They loathe me. They can understand Willow but not me. Oh, one thing I didn't mention. Early in the Glory crap we got Dracula." Everyone gaped. "He's real. The sisters wanted to keep Giles as a pet. Riley got pissed that he was hitting on his girlfriend. I got to eat bugs. Not very proud of that but he was an annoying bastard who said I was odd and offputting." He gave them a slightly insane smirk. "So if anyone needs any furniture, he left a lot of it there."
"I'll remember that," Vorchain said dryly. "I know people who'd love it."
"I know people who'd love it," Abby told him. "Especially if we can prove it was his and authentic? There's goths who would bankrupt people, even some hackers who'd bankrupt everyone, for those things." Xander grinned. "Did he leave?"
"Buffy kept trying to stake him. He fogged up. She's get pissed. He'd disappear." She nodded. "So we're pretty sure he's still alive somewhere. Spike claims he owes him money from an old poker game." Vorchain cackled. "Have you met Spike? He drives me to make that same sort of noise in my head. I almost thought I was going to turn into Dru a few times."
"I have met Spike," Vorchain said smugly, smirking at him. "I'll be following you home, Xander."
"Sure. The more the merrier. Hit on Buffy, it'll make her week."
"I'll do that." He looked at Gibbs. "Were they charged?"
"The general in charge of the last phase was killed. Most of his senior people as well." He looked at Xander. "You let the demons loose?"
"Yup. Thought it fitting," he said dryly, looking down at him. "I love you guys in uniform, just not the torturing, raping bastards who did experiments on others."
"Don't much blame you." He handed it to Tony. "We'll talk to someone Monday about making sure the others are safely slated to go into a confined job if they stay after they leave the hunting teams."
"You and the director, boss," he said, sliding it back. "I'm not going to ask her. She might try to curse me again. Speaking of curses, your second wife called again last night. I pointed out, yet again, I'm not dating the woman and let Jeanne have her."
"If that'll make her go away," he said blandly. "Did you warn Fornell?"
"Yeah and I gave him a medallion with a protection rune on it through Abby."
"I told him it was because his second wife was back and it'd drive off the blood sucking bitch," Abby told him. "He put it on and smiled." She looked at the folder. "Unfortunately that's not the only government project. Blair, I believe one has some of your research?"
"Doesn't surprise me. My area of research is sentinels." Gibbs moaned. "You've heard?"
"I've met one." He looked at him. Then at Abby. "Spread how far?"
"Finding, training, testing, finding them useful jobs," she summed up. "I'm not sure if they can leave the service or not."
Mac sighed, looking at that folder. "A few went into our old unit, Gibbs." He passed it over. "It doesn't really surprise me. If they don't stay military they'd be snapped up by the CIA."
"No lab rat phase?" Blair asked.
"No, they have your research, they don't need it," Abby told him. "They think yours is too old." She slid down a message. "Someone sat across from me at lunch a few days back and said to give that to you."
He looked then shook his head, putting it into his pocket. "I'll make sure my research from here on out doesn't get out."
"It's being classified apparently," Gibbs offered. He slid down the folder. "As long as it's willing I can't complain."
"If it's not?" Blair asked.
"Then we'll have to see," he admitted. "What about the guide issue?"
"They'd have to have one or else their senses go to hell," Blair told him. "They wobble, they cut in and out. The sentinel zones out on one or more senses and stays catatonic."
"Which was how they found another one," Abby said, pointing at the folder. "One went catatonic in Afghanistan. No injuries to see why. The brain scans brought someone jogging in who'd seen your research."
"No. I saw his name, he's still in jail," Abby told him. "I checked. What did he do?"
"He tried to make Jim steal an experimental plane for him or else he'd release a biological weapon across Cascade. He found some of my older research, saw Jim when he got back from Peru, and put it together." He slid it back down to Gibbs. "If it's voluntary or they want to be there I can't complain. I can complain about conscription and I can complain about keeping them as virtual slaves."
"I'll look into that," Gibbs said, adding it to his stack. "Anything else military related in that stack?"
"No," Kermit offered. "A list of who's cut dark deals for part or all of their soul. Wolfram and Hart." He slid that down to Xander. "Two other programs to help others who're making deals. One's a literal training program for witches in the CIA."
"Did our director do that?" Tony asked.
"Not sure." He handed that one over. Tony read it and nodded, handing it to Gibbs.
"That's who sent her to me to train," he sighed, putting it into his stack. "Xander, the Wolfram and Hart stuff?"
"Hell's lawyers," he said, sliding it down. "I need to fax that to Angel." That got a nod. "Or, hey, if Angel knows Vorchain, he can deliver it and snark at my ex too." He beamed at him. "She's missed having someone to snark at."
Vorchain shook his head but Blair hugged the boy. "It's all right. We'll make sure you date better people, Xander."
Ryan looked down at him. "Yelina's still smiling," he reminded him. Horatio bopped him on the arm. "She is. It's nice to see her happy." He grinned. "Is our lab's problem one of these or a more mundane one?"
"Mundane," Horatio told him. "Thankfully."
"We all hope that we get more mundane problems," Don said, taking the list of who did what sort of deals. He looked and pointed at one for Mac's look. "Look, it's our problem."
"And mine," Gibbs said dryly, nodding. "One of anyway. Is there any way to get them out of office?"
"There's always more where they came from," Tony said grimly. "It's the allure of the power, Gibbs. That's why my own father did it. That's why Ancelin's father gifted her." He shrugged. "Better an enemy you know at this stage." That got a mass nod. The list got passed around. He sniffed, then did it again, getting up with a smile to open the door. "You made me brownies?" he asked with a grin.
"How?" his girlfriend whispered.
He kissed her, pulling her inside. "Guys, this is my girlfriend Jeanne." He put down the brownies and smiled at her. "Do you want to hear it from me, Ancelin, or Vorchain?"
She hit him on the chest. "You were talking about demons, Tony."
Abby concentrated and her pet showed up. "This is my pet imp Homer. Wanna pet him? He won't drool on you."
She looked then shuddered, backing away. "Not really."
Tony kissed her. "It's the family's job to hunt things like Homer down and end them," he said gently. "It has been since ancient Rome, Jeanne. It wasn't my job until the cousin in Italy got sicker. Then things had to be set into motion." She shook her head. He nodded. "I trained as a child to be able to do this stuff. It doesn't take most of my day. Gibbs still does." Gibbs nodded at that. "Right now, we're in the setting up phase. Nothing says you have to help or be there."
"No," she said weakly, staring at him. "It's not true. Tony, tell me it's not true."
Vorchain got up and walked her off. "I've been around for most of this history, we'll talk." She gave him a horrified look. "I touched a well I shouldn't have and got cursed to walk until my perfect mate was found. It apparently hasn't been born yet."
"What was yours?" Mac asked Kermit.
"Until I could no longer learn anything."
"Well, if and when we make it into space we'll let you two set up the first tower," Tony said dryly, making him laugh. "Sorry, guys. She does make good brownies." They dug in, Tony watching the door while he nibbled on his.
"Let's adjourn so those of us who have research to do can do that," Horatio ordered quietly. They nodded and those who had things to study went to do that while Tony went to find his girlfriend. He couldn't blame her, he wouldn't want to believe it either if he hadn't been trained as a child by his grandmother.
Tony settled in behind Jeanne an hour later when he found her outside, pulling her back against his chest. She stiffened. "Just think. I can do this while you think."
"The new tower," he admitted quietly. "Nothing but terrorists and NCIS stuff will attack here and I have a very good security setup for that." She nodded, relaxing against him. "I was going to move up on this slowly until the first time you saw me dealing with something."
"I met my cousin when I was eight. I went over that summer and then my tenth summer to train and learn from him," he admitted. "My mother insisted when her mother got onto her." She looked at him. "It seems that the grandmothers held this generation solid." He grinned slightly. "I'm basically a knight in a war, Jeanne. I'm the holder of the library and one of the better sword fighters."
"You still use swords?"
"Now and then. Xander uses artillery in his group. He's a member of two of them." He gave her a squeeze. "It'll be okay."
"It won't be. You kill things."
"If I have to kill a bad thing to save people it's no worse than what I do with my team at NCIS," he said patiently. "Besides, most of the time I go for banishment. It's harder than, well, hell, to kill a demon." She gave him a dirty look. "It is." He shrugged. "They don't often kill easily. The last time the group killed a major one it was coming for Ancelin. It nearly killed her two husbands and a few others." She slumped. "See, I was working up slowly. Introduce you to Grandma Ancelin. Introduce you to Abby and Homer sometime this weekend. Let you get used to them. Then you could come ask questions."
"I have a few."
"And we have the library," he said dryly. She pinched him on the arm. "Sorry. That's why we have the library. A lot of it is personal journals." He nuzzled the back of her head, then kissed it. "For obvious reasons you can't talk about the group. If they knew they'd come after us," he said quietly. "With none of us having kids yet to leave it to..."
"I understand." She turned to look at him better. "You want kids?"
"Some day, possibly some day soon," he admitted with a small grin. "I have to have at least one son to take my position. If they all have one son the most gifted one will be chosen. We'll have to talk about naming rights later." He gave her a kiss. "Volka is not a title, it's a family name. It's the name of the ancestors who started all this' first son. It's a position I carry on the traditions of with a great bit of honor." She nodded, relaxing against his chest again. "You think, dear."
"What's the outbuilding going to be?"
"That is the ancestors' tomb," he said quietly. "It wasn't safe in Rome. I can introduce you to them when you're sure you're calm and want to stay." She nodded. He gave her a squeeze. "You know, if we're following all the old rituals we'd be having a male bonding moment later," he teased.
"Football game?" she asked hopefully.
"Sex to bind us as tightly as any family," he corrected. She shuddered. "Some of them are gay, Jeanne. You're going to have to deal with that."
"Have I been yet?" he countered, giving her a look. "With the way I play with your body when you're in the mood?"
"Never mind," she muttered. "You're a tit hound."
"Xander found a pair of natural h-cups in Miami. He sent pictures to prove they were real."
She groaned, pinching him again. She watched as Xander, Blair, and Vorchain walked out and into the outbuilding, closing the door behind them. "Going to see your relatives?"
"Possibly. Their last lives were very tied into my relatives. Blair and Xander's old bodies used to guard the tomb. They also used to let the relatives into them so they could touch others again. It's a very generous offer."
She looked at him. "Possession too?"
"Only for the worst things," Mac said as he joined them. "We're fortunate that Tony and I don't get stuck in that problem or we'd have died recently." She opened her mouth. "It was us doing that or everyone dying a horrible death, Jeanne. Which would you rather have?"
"I'd rather have a boyfriend I didn't have to share."
"You shared him with Gibbs already," he reminded her. "No one gets their lover all to themselves if they get to come out of the house or if they have pets or children. When my wife was alive she used to get very frustrated at sharing me with the lab."
"I get jealous of Gibbs," she admitted quietly, staring at him. "You work in a lab?"
He smiled. "I'm head of the Manhattan Felony crime lab," he admitted. She gaped. "The redhead is another CSI. One of the guys I don't know very well is a lab tech in Las Vegas's lab."
"I can't believe Hodges is a relative of Vorchain's," Tony admitted.
"Crossed in with Chauvis' line," Mac reminded him. "That's why he's so smart and mouthy. His own words. He and Danny get along well enough that it's scary."
"How old is he?"
"He was about three hundred when Ancelin was married," Tony told her. "See, there's this hidden well somewhere that they had to go defeat something at. The well is cursed. He touched the well."
"I don't believe in this stuff." She gave him a helpless look.
"Most people don't," Mac reminded her. "That's why people like us work in quiet to solve it. So they don't have to know."
She nodded. "I can understand why people would hurt others more if they did know."
Xander came jogging out and headed inside, then went back out there with a small bottle. "Was that gun oil?" Mac asked.
"Possibly," Tony admitted. He shrugged. "I don't worry about what those two get up to."
"They're probably talking weapons," Jeanne said grimly. She looked at him. "We don't have an armory."
"We do have my gun and my sword, which is at work. We did inherit an armory. It's in the basement by the washer. I can teach you if you want. I need more practice sparring with a sword."
"I haven't used one since I was nineteen," Mac told him. "Except for the ceremonial Marine saber." He sat down in the chair next to them. "I like this one, Tony."
"Thanks. Did you guys work out sleeping arrangements?"
"Yup. Thanks for making the beds too."
"I figured most of you guys were going to come in tired." He bopped him on the arm. "From Ziva."
"Why did I get a punch on the arm from your Mossad coworker?"
"I don't know, but she said to bop you on the arm, used that phrase." He looked at him then shrugged. "Not a clue. She was in a funny mood all week. She had PMS and Homer offered her some of the chocolate he was eating."
"That's gross." Tony snickered but nodded. "I'll talk to her tonight probably. Got a grill for out here?"
"I do and a huge kitchen up in my place, plus groceries."
"Even better." He looked at Jeanne again. "This isn't a full part of our lives, Jeanne. It's a duty we share that calls out to us now and then. Like being in the Reserves."
"Is it more likely that you'll die of this than in the Reserves?" she asked.
He shrugged. "We can die waking up in the morning if we slip in the shower or cut ourselves making breakfast. Plenty of people do every day. Dying for a reason that protects others makes us special in some very good ways," Mac told her. "The same as it does you for wanting to protect and help others who need it. It's the same sort of calling."
She considered it, getting free of Tony. "I'm going home to think."
"Thank you for the brownies," Tony said gently, walking her back down to the garage. He gave her a kiss. "Call?"
"I'll call." She kissed him again, smiling. "I'm not dumping you, I need to think."
"I know you do. Think away. Come back and talk when you're ready." He opened her car door, letting her slide in and start the engine, then head off once the gate was open. He waved, closing the gate before heading back upstairs. He came out on the library floor. "She's majorly freaked out," he announced. "But we talked and she's thinking." That got some nods. "It'll be fine and if I have to, I can start dating again but she knows she can't talk about it." He settled into his chair. Mac strolled in with an empty mug, heading for the coffeemaker. "We have another issue to talk about." Mac looked at him. "If I have a talented kid and you have a talented kid.... Who names which one Volka? Especially if they're older."
"We have two choices. It goes down through your line unless you don't have one," Mac offered. "Or we name them normally and they'll take it as a title, like you did."
"I'd rather keep the traditional meaning."
"Before it went from Volka to his kids," Hodges said from his seat reading in the corner. "If his kids weren't he went to look at his siblings' children and then more distant cousins. If they had to change their names the kids were usually old enough to understand why." He looked over. "For now, worry about having kids. Then worry about that one. Even if there's one that's more talented than yours we can figure that out later." That got a nod. He smirked. "I know, I have good ideas."
"Now and then," Mac agreed, giving him a look. "Keep it up, I'm shipping Lindsay out there for the next crossover case."
"I'm a simple trace tech, she won't be bothering *me*," he said smugly. "Now, Sanders she'll drive insane." He frowned then looked at Danny. "Were you the stupid little drag racer?" he asked.
He smirked but nodded. "I was playing around. I had a moment of regression." Hodges shook his head, going back to his journal reading. Mac gave him an odd look. "I got challenged. I was questioned in a case but I wasn't a suspect." He sat down with his journal of choice. "Now what?"
"We connect as the family we are," Tony told him. "If you don't want Marine coffee, go use my pot and the stuff in my freezer or the canister." Hodges and Danny went to do that. He looked at Mac. "I know you're a widow. Any chance of kids?"
"I'm barely almost seeing someone," he admitted, sitting down across from him. "Ryan?"
"I noticed," Mac admitted dryly. "Also, Horatio's mentioned it a few times. I know Don's not dating at the moment. We're mostly still young. I'm the oldest of all of us."
Tony grimaced. "If I had known this was going to happen I wouldn't have been such a faithful user of condoms when I was younger." Mac snickered but nodded. "You?"
"Claire was starting her career when I first got deployed," he admitted. "It wasn't a good time to strand her with a child while I was gone." Tony nodded at that. "Does Gibbs have kids?"
"Vorchain said he does. He also said that her family likes her where she is and doesn't believe she's not theirs."
"That's a good thing I guess." He grimaced. "I almost expected there to be more of us."
"Sixteen sons of the lines died in Vietnam. Another four in various wars since then. Six of us disappeared due to the Soviet regime. I know there's others. With all the wenching they did back then there's got to be others. As a matter of fact, there's one guy in the group portrait that looks a lot like an actor on that show Gibbs likes to say is impossible for an agent to do." Mac chuckled. "I take it you've seen that show?"
"Stella raves about him."
"He's cute," he agreed. "He looks nearly like Joseph. I've seen one other familiar face around town but he's one of the members we know *nothing* about and he's an agency head of a small agency so I'm not sure if he knows or not."
"He likes to ignore it," Vorchain called from the other library. "Your mother had good taste in books."
"Tell her ghost. Father stabbed her." He looked at Mac again, shrugging a bit. "I still have to put up most of the artwork from the tower in Italy but I do have that one up." He nodded and Mac followed him back to where it was sitting on the back wall of that library, carefully lit and prominently placed with a chair in front of it. "She had Joseph paint it. That's why he's a bit shadowy. Her journal said that he didn't think he could paint himself. Though he did do most of the group's portraits. Including the one of Spots and Furry on her clothes." That got a smile. "Let's see. There's Ancelin and Volka behind her. Chauvis was at his left. Beside him is Charlet, DeLovaire, the guy who looks like the head of the agency in town. Next to him is Shaun Dolouise. He looks like Xander's coworker Wesley apparently. Then there's the younger brother Chapalet, Tobias.
"On the other side of Volka are Joseph, Cofostat the Elder, the Younger, and then Vorchain and the older brother Chapalet, Leonard. The crawling baby was the Volka of the next generation by what her notes said. The others were off playing to the side with the cubs and each other. Severtina's babe, Younger's twin girls and his son. Ancelin's daughter and heir, then Chauvis' heir. One of Joseph's sons had shown up looking for admittance so he was watching the rash of toddlers and furry beings." Mac smiled. "Ancelin said she was sitting because she was sick to her stomach and was going to beat Volka for getting her pregnant even through the herbs. Severtina was in the kitchen fussing and refused to be painted. She and Charlotte were both fussing over that. There's pictures of them somewhere." He smiled at him. "We were a family back then. We were strong because of it," he said quietly.
"We'll be that strong again and we'll all quit being plagued by imps," Mac assured him. "Let's hang up the other portraits?" He nodded, going to get the crates of pictures so they could be hung up. He laughed at the picture of the small leopard and the wolf cub snuggled down in piles of lace and satin or silk. "Joseph did a good job with this one."
"I drew it out for him and made notes," Kermit said, smiling at it, shaking his head. "Now and then we almost miss the cubs. They did entertain the tots very well."
"The family portrait she made Joseph paint or else she'd make him train her daughter is on the back wall," Tony said with a grin.
Kermit laughed, going to look. "He did do good," he called. He smiled at Ryan when he came over to look. "That was the group of Ancelin's generation. The crawling one was the Volka of the next generation. He always wanted attention. He was a lot like Vorchain and Volka growled at him about his parentage a few times when he was drunk. Ancelin usually ended up slapping him and making him sleep in the nursery. Though there was that one time she opened a window and tossed him out for it."
"Yup. With baby number seven, the sixth one born alive. A daughter of Chauvis. She claimed she was making her stubborn and unsettled so she threw him out of the tower the easy way without making herself walk down the stairs. Thankfully it was midwinter and the pass got heavy snows that year. He ended up nearly buried in a snowdrift. Chauvis had to go get him before he died of frostbite. He sent him to go visit Cofostat the Younger for a few weeks while he got her calmed down again." He grinned at him. "She was the best amazon wench many of us had ever imagined."
"Volka was very apologetic?"
"Oh, yeah," he said with a smirk. "Came home with treats, something pretty for her to wear, blaming it on the evil alcohol. Cofostat the Elder had given him advice on how to suck up to a wife you had just pissed off totally." Ryan laughed. "He had four, plus Severtina, who would gut him if he pissed her off. Though there was that one night she dressed him in a dress and makeup while he was asleep. He had made her grumpy so she made sure he knew it." Ryan walked off snickering.
Gibbs leaned out of the row a few back. "She'd do it now too." He came over to look. "I do look like him."
"You do. I, however, am just as handsome now as I was back then." Kermit walked off. "I wonder if any of Joseph's line is available. I almost miss having to go on rescues with him." He found the family tree scroll and unrolled it to look at. "Damn," he said in awe. Horatio laughed at that. "I thought Vorchain wenched more." Hodges snickered at that from his seat. "It's the family tree, minus the kids that we didn't know about of course." He traced Joseph's line, frowning at the dead ends. "Poor man."
Ancelin faded in. "Oh, there's a daughter of the line," she said dryly. "She's the last of her line but she's around in New York." Mac gave her a horrified look. "Yes, dear, you know her."
"Lindsay?" he asked hopefully.
She giggled but shook her head. "No, dear. That cute ME." She pinched his cheek and came over to look. "There was a child of this one but the family died of a fever within months of him being born. The same with this one. The Dark wanted his line to end because he was a point of stability," she said sadly.
"All the rescuing," Kermit agreed.
"That and he calmed down Vorchain."
"What's he doing?"
"Thinking about grilling."
"Fat chance," Tony said, going to stop him. He did not want to explain a bonfire with food to the fire department. "Do not light anything on fire that's not meant to be on fire!" he yelled from a window. "Or else I'm sacrificing you to something!"
"Succuba like me," he called back with a shiteating grin, waving a hand. "You had steaks."
"I also have a grill plate on my stove," he defended. "Gibbs, go help Vorchain grill before he burns down the building?" he called.
"Abby, go help Vorchain grill!" he yelled. She and her pet imp went to do that. He shook his head, coming out with his former son's journal to read through. He sat snickering. "He does remind you of that Draco kid from Harry Potter." Horatio gave him a smug look. "Abby. She handcuffed me and made me watch the first two with her one night when she was upset."
"Figures." Horatio went back to his notes.
Tony looked at him. "He looked a lot like him too," he said dryly. He went down to help with the grilling before those two had a moment of 'fire pretty' and burned down the new building.
Xander snuck into Blair's room late Friday night, sitting on the foot of his bed to wake him up. "I feel strange."
"Sick strange or otherwise strange?" Blair asked, looking down at him.
"Otherwise strange. Especially after earlier. I went to sleep and all I saw was screaming."
Blair held up an arm, letting Xander curl up next to him. "I get the same dreams."
"Usually I see battles, I see pain, I don't see sex. Anya wore that out of me."
Blair kissed him on the forehead. "It'll be okay, Xander. I promise."
"I, um... I probably should wash my sheets tomorrow," he admitted sheepishly.
Blair gave him a look. "You told me last week that you still hadn't been able to get it up thanks to the all the wearing out Anya did to your body." Xander blushed but nodded. "This was the first one?"
"Yeah and it was like I was twelve again," he complained. "Am I finally recovering?"
"Hopefully. I was going to suggest going to see someone if you didn't recover by the end of the month," Blair said gently, giving him a cuddle. Xander sank into his arms, cuddling back, earning a smile. "You do that very well."
"Anya hated to cuddle. I haven't gotten a good cuddle outside of you since I dated Cordelia."
"That's a bad thought." He kissed him on the forehead again. "Rest, Xander. We'll work it out."
Xander blushed again, shifting awkwardly. "Sorry."
"It's not a problem. Your body's happy it's working again. If it's anything like a succubus, we'll beat her and you'll still work."
"I had one last month that tried and it didn't work," he complained quietly.
Blair stroked over his hair. "You need a trim again." His friend and former little brother smiled at him. "We'll talk tomorrow."
"Can I have a horse?"
"We'll talk to Jim about it," he promised, smiling at him. "Sleep." Xander nodded, snuggling in again to sleep on his shoulder. Blair sighed in pleasure. It felt good to be cuddled like this again. It had been a very long time since he had been cuddled by anyone. He felt Xander reacting and smiled, deciding to ignore it for now. Along with how his own body was reacting. They'd deal with that issue later. They were still getting used to being friends.
Gibbs walked into the director's office Monday morning. "I'm going to ruin your week."
"You're taking off to fight something that's going to eat Congress just as they up our budget?" she asked grimly, taking off her reading glasses.
He put down a piece of paper. "From what someone's tracked, they're the ones who've sold at least part of themselves for power, money, and/or influence." She gaped at him. He put down the two folders. "We went over the various threats we'd have to deal with and two of them need to be checked to make sure we don't have to step in."
"All right." She didn't touch that first paper. "Who looked in on that?"
Gibbs shrugged. "Kermit found it for McGee and Abby." He handed over the first one. "This one is an ongoing program. As long as it's *consensual* we don't care. If it's conscription we might have to do something or get them switched to at least pick which branch of the government they want to work for."
She looked at it then at him. "You know Sandburg?"
"Spent all weekend with him," he agreed dryly. "He tells some great stories. Cooks better than most people I know too."
"I'm sure he does." She sighed, going over the notes then looked at him. "They would be an asset, Jethro."
"If they're conscripted, they're slaves. I'm all for them working for us if they want to."
"Good point. I know the commander over this and I'll make sure of that, say someone tipped us off, we need to make sure they've signed up of their own free will. If not, perhaps someone in another agency could use them."
"As long as they don't go to some black ops lab," he agreed. "That's what we wanted in that case. The other, well, DiNozzo got sick." He handed it over. "We got information files and hacked security footage if we need it. Some are alive, some were eaten, some are working for the UN on their demon hunting squads."
She opened it, reading it, frowning. "Excuse me?" she asked finally, looking at him. "They wanted them to do *what*?"
"Which was why the slayer out in Sunnydale took them down with her group." He shifted. "We need to know if we need to charge the ones who are still alive with anything."
She went back to reading, then looked at him again. "How were they stopped?"
"A slayer, a watcher, a witch or two, a vampire that now has a behavior modification chip so he can't hurt humans, and one of us by birthright. He's a normal guy but pretty much an artillery/'guns pretty' sort."
She moaned. "Against a military unit?"
He smirked and nodded. "Yup. Beat them a few times."
"Wonderful," she groaned, going back to her reading. She finally had to put it down. "How many are left, Jethro?"
"Last page. One of the witches out there is a hacker, she got their full personnel lists and the security footage when they had to go down to retrieve our dead bodies for us. The local base wouldn't go down to retrieve them after they saw the first demon." He shifted again, crossing his legs. "We know some went to the UN for their extermination squads. We know some are still active service, some went Reserves, and some went to the FBI."
"Oh, no. Not on my watch," she assured him. "I want that other information."
He called Tony. "She wants the Initiative files." He hung up and Tony and Abby carried the boxes up, putting them onto her conference table before leaving. He pointed. "There you go. Do have fun. The security footage is so bad Ziva couldn't watch a bit of it when she intruded on the meeting last night."
"Did it go all right?"
"We have a good foundation started. DiNozzo's got a few ideas. He said if you wanted something researched to ask him and to tell him why. He can probably find it better and faster than you can since the old library takes up a seven bedroom apartment's worth of space." She shuddered at that. "The new one takes up a three bedroom," he offered, standing up. "It went fine. We all talked, got to know each other, worked on any present problems, spread around things like the imp banishing solution and the fact that peanut butter with the chocolate makes them spew harder. I made Abby quit bringing her imp to work with her." She shuddered. "She's probably pouting but oh well. Anything else?"
"May I have a list of members?"
"No." He walked out, leaving her there.
She got up to go through the information they had. When it got too sickening she called that commander to talk to him. It was a good break and got her out of the office for a bit.
Don looked around before walking into Mac's office. "I'm confused."
"About?" Mac asked, looking at him.
"A lot of things." He grimaced, closing the door and coming in to sit down. "I wasn't having strange dreams before this weekend. A few riding around and sword fighting but not demons."
"It was being around all of us, Don. Plus Ancelin probably prompted some." He gave him a gentle smile. "She's not going to make it hurry up so she has you back but she does want you to know how special you are."
"Are you your ancestor or something? You're acting odd."
"I talked to him earlier. It was suggested I go buy myself a wife." Don chuckled, shaking his head. "I told him I'm seeing someone subtly and he said that was good but if it was too subtle she might miss the clues." He put down his pen. "At least you're not getting nagged that way."
"No, not yet. Though I did see the demon that nearly got her and meeting the ancestors back then."
"I read about that," he admitted, tossing over the journal. "I read most of it on the plane back."
"Thanks." He put it into his jacket pocket. "Now what? Do we train? Do we research? Do we wait?"
"Well, I'd think some training might go well. Some things you still need to behead or stab. Even if Xander is fond of shooting and blowing them up." Don smirked a bit at that; he and Xander had gotten along very well over the weekend. "You and I can work out together with Danny."
"If she wants," he offered. "I'm not sure she'd want to. I can hear her complaining about slime already."
"Her and me both," Don agreed.
Mac smiled. "I know. It's not what I want to consider either." Danny tapped then leaned in. "Problems?"
"Montana's wondering what we did this weekend. I told her we ate a lot of good food, got into some very ancient books, and talked about family stuff." He came in. "Grandfather said we should probably practice. The next problem is slated for up here in about ten months." He handed over that email. "Woke up to it. He had it on the plane out to LA." That got a smile and a nod. "His one after he got there said that Buffy's still very uptight and could use a good laying but he's not her type. He's not a predator. Xander's taking Dawn to Cascade for a vacation. He said they're going null over the summer, usual stuff." He put down another folder. "Found this waiting on me this morning. Not sure who sent it but it's on Wolfram and Hart. We do have an office up here, I checked." He looked at Don. "It looks like we'll be having an artillery problem instead of a sword problem but if you wanna learn he offered to teach you and Mac both."
"Do you know how to use one?" Mac asked.
"Eehh," Danny admitted. "So so." He looked at the door as it was pushed open. "Spreading news that got to me this morning, Lindsay." He looked at Mac again. "So we need ta get that into high gear on the research side. We need ta practice, and we should probably figure out if we want to do meetings up here or not."
"We see each other every day," Don reminded him. "If something comes up, we can share. Even if we do have to lock ourselves in a bathroom for privacy. You mind, Monroe?" She left. He looked at Mac again. "Has anyone protested her this week? If not, let me be the first."
"She's settling in much better, Don," he said patiently, handing over that information. "I don't think we need meetings but Don and I were both talking about the training issue. I'll start work on the research angle tonight?" Danny nodded, leaving it with them, going back to work. He looked at the prophecy and groaned. "I hate them." He let Don see it too. "I'll get the books we need from Tony by this weekend so we can start a good file on what to do."
"What if we need potions and stuff?" Don asked.
"Danny and I are both good in chemistry. I'm assuming he can cook as well."
"It's not the same thing, Mac. Most of them require more than just mixing stuff."
"Point. We'll figure that out. Maybe Stella knows someone or Xander can get us a recommendation locally."
Don nodded. "That'll work. Thanks, Mac." He handed it back before standing up. "I'm gonna go ignore the gremlins in my desk."
"You have real gremlins?"
"Yeah, one was chewing on my sunglasses this morning." He walked off, going to try to banish those things. He had to use someone else's computer to email Tony but he almost expected that. Cartoons always showed gremlins going after technology.
Tony walked onto Jeanne's unit at the hospital, handing her a vial. "Works differently. Have to actually throw it on the gremlin."
She pointed at the room. "In there." He nodded, walking in there, closing the door so no one could see him banishing the gremlin that had came to bother one of her patients. Apparently the hospital had an infestation and one had followed her to the building, which had followed Don back to New York since his precinct wasn't blessed. He found the creature, pouring the fluid on it when it glared at him, smirking a bit. It fizzled and then exploded so he looked at the salt used to confine it, then walked out. "Okay, it's gone." He gave her a kiss, smiling a bit. He handed her the rest of the vial. "Pour it onto them, they fizzle then have a minor explosion when they displace air. By the way, you brought one with you and it went to New York. It's eating Don's computer." He took another kiss, smiling at her. "Dinner or are you still thinking?"
"I'm still thinking," she admitted, making him nod and pout a bit but that was normal Tony behavior so she let it go. "How many more do we have?" He shrugged. "Do we have more?"
"I made a good sized batch and it's in a mason jar in the pantry if you need some more." He took a third kiss and left, heading back to work. His other vial of it went into Gibbs' desk. "Gremlins at Jeanne's hospital," he said dryly.
"Wonderful," he said, scowling some. "It gone?"
"One's gone and I told her how to do it." He sat down, going back to work. "Where was I when she called screaming?"
"Amazing feats of magical mind reading," McGee reminded him.
"Oh, yeah." He put the information up on the board. "How's that for magical mind reading? The link hit me on the way to her work. It's the green highlighted link that connect three of the four robbers. The last one is one of the other's little brother, boss."
He looked then nodded. "When does that happen?"
"Every Tuesday night at eight at Slick Willie's bar and cantina."
"Address?" Tony found it and sent it to him. "We're going," he said, getting up.
"It's a bar, it's closed right now, boss."
"He might know where they live and we'll make sure he doesn't tip them off," Gibbs told him, heading out. "Well!" he demanded when he wasn't joined. The others grabbed their gear and headed with him
Xander walked Dawn into the police station's Major Crimes unit, smiling at Jim. "Dawn, this is Jim Ellison, he's Blair's friend and roomie."
"Hi. Don't worry, I'm the normal one," she said at Jim's odd look. "We had to get away from Sunnydale. It was all doom and gloom and 'why didn't I see her going bad' again."
"Are you both camping on Blair's floor?" Jim asked patiently. He was learning a lot about patience thanks to Sandburg and Harris being friends.
"No, Giles got us a hotel room," she said with perky cheer, smiling at him. "Mostly because he didn't want to see if Xander was having funky Roman dreams for a reason or not and he figured Blair could faster."
"Dawn," Xander complained.
"Sorry. You are."
He gave her a look. "Sharing too much, dear," he said dryly.
"Yay me. Who's going to yell at me for that?" Jim raised a hand. "You're one of those straight, boring people Mommy would've loved." She gave him a hug. "Don't worry, I'll keep the Blair and Xander show's insanity down while I'm here. I'm the normal one."
"That might be nice," Jim told her. "Sandburg's in class."
"I know. I came to introduce you to her and to ask Simon for some advice."
Jim looked then pointed. "He's in there growling at his computer again. It's a paperwork day."
"Sure. Thanks. Can I...." Jim nodded so he sat Dawn down in the interview chair. "Wait here." He went into the office after a quick knock on the door. "Can I have some parental advice?" he asked quietly enough that Dawn wouldn't hear.
"Don't you have parents?" Simon asked.
"Yeah but I'm also a parent. I'm hoping to be a better one than mine are. The state gave Dawn to me." He shut the door. "Buffy's being more of a flake than usual," he said quietly. "Her grief and Dawn's grief aren't working well together and Dawn's acting out to get attention."
"Acting out how?"
"Shoplifting. Breaking curfew. Normally I wouldn't care so much about the last one but Sunnydale's the capitol of dangerous. I think I can cure some of that by getting her up here and away from Spike and the others. Not that Spike hasn't helped even if he did teach her how to shoplift. It was attention and she needs the attention right now."
Simon looked at him. "Why did the state give you Dawn?"
"Willow is, was, in school. Buffy's not employed. Giles fled before the hearing was even announced. He fled about a day after the funeral and didn't get back until a few weeks after the hearing. I'm stable, employed, had a girlfriend. I knew her. She agreed. She still lives with Buffy and they said that'd be fine since it's her family home and her mother left it to her. Supposedly I'm staying there too but what they don't know and all that. I'm good with this step but I don't have a 'next' yet. I figured you're a pretty good dad after meeting Darryl and you've seen plenty that weren't. Where do I go from here? Buffy needs someone to cling to but she's going wrong in the head. She's having a 'why didn't I see Willow going bad' moment when we all saw it but wanted to ignore it for the larger battles we had at the time."
Simon considered it. "Sex?"
"She was told that the things that would be coming after her for her specialness would quit, or at least slow down, if she wasn't as pure," Xander admitted. "It was a one-time thing. She asked a guy her age. They hooked up and she's off it again until she's older."
"They do that?"
"Yeah, at a rate of four times more likely," Xander said grimly. "All but vampires." Simon just nodded. "Sorry, I know you hate that life."
"I do. Is she hunting?"
"She wants to learn. She's had to do some to defend herself after doing stupid stuff at a sleepover where the hostess invited in vamps. I'm good with her learning self defense but I know how much hunting my former classmates has screwed me up and I don't want that for her. Someday I want her to be a normal, loved little princess to some nice idiot who I'll kill if he treats her wrong."
"Self defense is always a good idea," Simon told him. Xander relaxed at that. "So's the not hunting. Combat at any age is warping and wearing on the soul. Yours seems to be so tired that you're looking for a way out, kid." He stared at him for a minute. "She needs the attention. Give her the attention and I think you'll get through this. Her sister needs to work her own things out. You can't do both and she knows that."
"We're all we have left," Xander said quietly. "Giles is there with her. Spike's there with her and that's not a healthy relationship for her to be in."
"Probably not," he agreed. "In this case you'll need to decide which one you're helping. You can't be there for both if their needs don't mesh. Not and work and take care of things. Speaking of work...."
"We're off this week. Between jobs. So I'm up on vacation. Giles even got us a hotel room."
"Nice of him." He looked out there, smiling at the happy looking young girl. "She looks happy."
"She's the queen of hiding it. We didn't know she was acting out until she gave her sister something she had shoplifted for her birthday. That was right before the meeting. Since I drove us up I stopped in the middle of nowhere to have one of those loud, long talks with her at the top of my lungs about that problem."
"That's a good sign," he agreed, smiling and waving when she waved at him. Jim burst out laughing. "I take it she has a mouth like yours?"
"Yeah, a lot like mine. And a crush on me," he admitted dryly. He grinned a bit. "She's a good kid but I know I'm gonna screw her up. She's going to end up being Elektra or something."
"She won't, Xander. Even if she has to protect herself she won't end up with the same sort of soul's damage you carry." Xander nodded at that wisdom. "Now, go make her play. That's a good step and you could both use it. Take her to the park, make her swing and play and laugh."
"I try. I feel so old some days."
"Join the club," he snorted. "Go. Shoo. Before she gets Jim into trouble."
"Jim gets into trouble?" he asked, looking a bit confused. "How does Jim get into trouble?"
"Usually by saving Sandburg. By the way, thank you for saving him so many times during the last trip."
"Not a problem. Think Jim would let me get a horse?"
"Probably not," Simon told him.
"Damn. I want a horse." He walked out, going to grab Dawn. "Come on, Blair should be done soon so we'll take him lunch and then go play in a park?"
She looked at him. "Play in a park?" she asked, looking confused.
"You know, that stuff where you swing and you laugh and you giggle?"
"Are you having more Anya problems? You only go do that when it's been too many vampy vamps."
"No, this is for you, not me."
"Oh. Okay. Shopping? I like shopping."
"I don't make enough to take you shopping the way you like to shop," he complained, walking her off. "See you later, Jim."
"Sure, kid. He shook his head once they were safely on the elevator, listening to them argue all the way out of the building. Then he went to see Simon. "She thinks he's freaking out because she's having issues."
"She's needing attention and acting out a bit. Xander wanted advice on what to do beyond giving her the attention she needs," Simon admitted. "Did you know he had custody of Dawn?"
"After Sandburg described Buffy and Giles, I'm not surprised. Oh, you might want to ignore anything about Rome this time. She said Xander's been having funny dreams about Roman times."
"Wonderful. I can do that." Jim smiled, leaving him alone. Simon went back to cursing at his paperwork. Xander was like a breath of chilly springtime air. It was refreshing but it sucked the energy out of you to get warm again.
Xander looked at Blair later that night, glancing over at Dawn then back at him. "Hi."
"Hi. What's wrong?"
"Funny dreams." He cuddled up next to him, watching Dawn sleep. "Plus Buffy's going back into denial land. I'm starting to feel like a responsible person with weights around my shoulders from the hunting again."
"You could find a job up here."
"That's another reason I'm up," he admitted, looking up at him. "To see if there's any good construction jobs up here." Blair grinned at that. "I've still got to support Her Fashionableness over there. Plus set up a place for us to live. Plus deal with the issue over her house if we move."
"Joyce left it to her?"
"Yeah. Her will said Buffy lived a dangerous life and might not last that long so she was making sure her other daughter's future was secure. Though it did say if they wanted to leave Sunnydale to sell the house and make sure some if it went into Dawn's college fund." Blair gave him a squeeze. "If I let her do that then Buffy will be out of a place to live and it's her home too but it was nearly burned the other day by a vamp," he said quietly. "I don't know what to do now, Blair."
"First, you defrag," he reminded him. "You get yourself ready to think and make plans. Do you want to move up here? Or DC, Miami, or New York to be nearer to some of the other guys?"
"I like it up here. I kinda liked the winter. I've never had winter before," he admitted.
"Does that mean I'm moving?" Dawn asked, sounding like she was half asleep.
"We'll figure that out soon. Go back to sleep."
"Tell him about the funny Roman dreams." She flipped onto her other side and went back to snoring.
Blair smiled at him. "Funny Roman dreams?"
"I'm a wine boy."
"Interesting." He grinned at that. "Have fun?"
"Apparently. I keep seeing the ancestor who looks like Mac."
"Him. I can't really describe it, it comes out sounding funny. Giles said there's a way to show it to you but I've got to talk to our Tony about that. He said it's in one of the other one's books."
"We'll see what we can pull up. More past life things?"
"I think it was the start of our line."
"Very interesting. We'll talk about it. For now, you should nap. It was a long drive."
"Sure, I'll nap with you." He laid down behind Xander, kicking off his shoes so he could hold him. Xander gave him a look so he smirked and stripped down to his boxers and a t- shirt, still covered enough in case Dawn got up first, and climbed in beside him to hold him. It always helped with the nightmares Xander had. "No combat nightmares tonight," he whispered, getting a nod. Xander relaxed, letting himself fall asleep. Blair nuzzled the soft, dark hair, smiling at his sleeping brother. It was going to get interesting soon. Jim would freak out but oh well.
Tony answered the phone after glancing at the number. "Obscure books a plenty, what's your former language?" he quipped tiredly. He listened. "Well, I have one of them. The other one was burned by an accidental fire from a candle tipping over during some research." He went to find that book, looking through it. "Yup, do have that one." He put that book back and found the other one that might have it. "Dream visualization?" He got a nod and went there, looking it over. "I can do that. It goes onto a standard mirror. It says silver backed but most of the time any shiny surface will do." He went to photocopy the page and send it to Blair. "What sort of dreams?" He blinked. "Really? Interesting. No, I'm waiting for the last Volka to die so I can pledge myself and stop all the issues going on. Jeanne's hospital still has gremlins. Fortunately Abby hasn't adopted any that've shown up at my work. No, she still has Homer. Homer's getting fat. She's even dressed him like Santa once. Fake beard hanging off his ears and all. Sent him up to the director, making her shriek and Abby cackle. Gibbs made her send him home again." He finished inputting the number. "Okay, sending it to your office fax." He smiled. "Good luck. Anything I should be aware of?" He considered it then sighed. "Want him to write to Gibbs? Does she need the intervention?" He nodded. "Then that'll work. Thanks, Blair. Good luck with that." He hung up and went to visit his ancestors. "Hey."
His look-alike smiled at him. "What's wrong?"
"The Chapalets were started by a wine boy my namesake had?"
"As I remember it, yes. Who told you that?"
"Xander. He's having dreams of being the wine boy." He sat down looking at the statue then at him. "Why can't I pledge myself now since we've moved the tower?" he asked quietly. "It would create less problems."
"Because only one has the special powers of the Volka at any given time," the other said patiently. "It won't be too much longer."
"We've got gremlins in my girlfriend's hospital. They have a lot of equipment in there to save lives. The gremlins are going to start hurting people soon. Banishing doesn't work because no one wants to think that they're killing the little brats."
The two ghosts shared a look and they summoned their brother, the one who had set up everything. "Daedalus."
He looked up from his reading, smiling at Tony. "What's wrong? Your cousin is almost gone. He's back to seeing spirits."
"He can hang on like that for months," Tony told him. "The problems are getting worse. We've got gremlins."
He considered it. "Your cousin will not last out next month."
"By next month we'll have a major incursion by a higher demon if it isn't stopped," Antonio pointed out.
He sighed then nodded. "He would have to want to give it up. He wanted to die that way."
"And he's too Catholic to rush it," Tony finished, getting a nod. "Then what do I do? The gremlins are already hurting people by eating necessary machines. I feel responsible because I can't stop them."
Daedalus gave him a gentle smile. "It speaks well of your soul, Volka." He came over to give him a hug. "I"ll talk with him in a few minutes, when he wakes again. Truly I don't think it'll be that long." Tony nodded. "When it's time we'll come get you."
"I want to do it sooner," he said quietly. "We found that we might have to have two Volkas now since the world is more inhabited."
"That would split the power and you wouldn't get his upon his death," Marcus, his look- alike, told him.
"What other powers are there? You can already inhabit me. We had to do that the one time."
"It'll lead to your children not being as strong. It could lose the full breadth of the powers," Daedalus said, looking sorry about it.
"I don't want him to die faster. I want to be able to stop the problems and the only way to stop the problems is to have a Volka in the tower."
"They exploded the old one yesterday," Antonio said quietly. "All but the ritual room. That one they're doing soon. He'll be going soon and it'll all be solved once you make your pledge."
Tony looked at the guy who looked so much like Mac. "What happens in the meantime and how many people will die because of it?" he asked quietly. "If they're attacking hospital machinery then people there can and will die."
"They could send them off," Marcus reminded him.
"They're healers. They try very hard not to kill."
"That is a whole other matter," he agreed.
Daedalus sighed. "I'll ask him if he'll give up his position before he goes," he assured him. Tony nodded, getting up and heading back to his apartment. "I understand his frustration."
"We all understand his frustration and it speaks well of him that he cares about such matters," Marcus agreed. "As Xander put it, it still sucks."
Antonio cackled at that. "You do like learning from the Chapalets. You always did."
"It's interesting that Xander is getting that particular vision," Daedalus said. "Wasn't it Blair's soul that was reborn back then?"
"No, he was one of the girls," Marcus said smugly. Antonio groaned and floated off, going to check more of their new city. In many ways it was much like their Rome had been.
Blair looked at the spell then at his friend. "Are you sure?"
"Here, let me," Dawn sighed, taking it and the mirror to get to work on it. She put it across from the beds in their hotel room, then smiled. "I'm going to take Jim to lunch."
"Nothing too unhealthy," Blair ordered. Xander handed over money. He looked at him then at Dawn. "Nothing that's going to raise his cholesterol."
"Yes, mom," she said patiently, heading out. Not that she'd listen to that one. Everyone needed to splurge sometime, right?
Blair finished the spell and it activated, showing Antonio, the one who looked like Mac, walking through a market.
He looked at the slave market, finding one scared, trembling young man. The ones bidding on him were all filthy whorehouse owners - it was like they were hearing some of his thoughts as well - so he bid. Something in the child called to him. When you did what he did you learned to listen to those instincts. He got the young man and walked him off. "What's your name?"
"Tiberius," he said quietly, not daring to look at him. "What would you have me do...m..ma...master," he stumbled on the last word.
Antonio looked down at him. "New to this?"
"My father died and the man who wants my mother arranged it so she'd lose our farm. He had me taken by someone so no male guarded my mother or sisters. No one listened when I told them that."
"Were they taken?"
Antonio patted him on the back. Now he knew, he was meant to help this one. "I'm not a hard master. You'll be doing the same things in my house that you did in yours and I'll talk to someone about your mother. If there's a solution we'll find it." The boy beamed at him. "You're how old?"
"I reached my majority yesterday," he said quietly, glancing around. "They thought me a year younger."
Antonio nodded. "That's wise. You would have been sold as a different sort of slave if they had known." He walked him into his house. "The most important rule of your new station is to obey orders. Even if they don't seem right. Where you could get away with things from your mother, you cannot do that here." Tiberius nodded at that, looking down. "Nothing you did caused this, Tiberius. Some men want what they don't have." He looked around. "Amena?" An older woman came out of the back parts of the kitchen, clucking her tongue. "Some unkind man stole him from his mother so he could have his mother."
"It happens." She tipped the boy's face up. "You're old enough to help me in the kitchens and do some of the menial things." She looked at her owner. "I'll take good care of him."
"Thank you. Your mother's name, boy?"
"Junoa, after the Great Goddess," he said quietly. "I had two sisters, sir."
"I'll ask after them and make sure she knows you're safe at the very least." He nodded, following the older woman back to the kitchen. He sat down, looking over as his brother came in. "Another unjust male stolen for jealousy."
"He's young and cute," he said, sliding down to sit next to him on the floor, resting against his older brothers' knee. "Thankfully none came for us that way when Father died."
"I was old enough to protect us," Antonio reminded him, patting him gently. "Where is the other one?"
"Fixing something in the kitchen," he said with a grin. "Where is your wife?"
"Somewhere being unreasonable I have no doubt." He went back to petting him. "I've promised to talk to someone about the boy's mother. What he did was wrong."
"How big was the family?"
"Hmm. Not unreasonable and my wife could use a new maid, as could yours, if worse came to worst."
"True." He smiled as the boy came in with a plate of food. "Thank you, Tiberius. This is my brother Marcus. The one in the kitchen with the wild hair is Daedalus."
The boy smiled. "He thinks I'm nearly a babe crawling on the floors." He put down the foot and went to get him a glass of wine, bringing it out carefully as well. "Does Master Marcus need anything, sir?"
"No, I'm fine. I steal off his plate all the time," Marcus said, giving him a smile. "Watch out for his wife, she's been unreasonable recently. Just do as you're told and don't get in the way of her if she has a weapon or a broom."
"My mother got me a few times," he said sheepishly, going back to the kitchen.
"As did ours," Marcus agreed dryly, reaching up to grab the cup of wine. He took a drink and grimaced. "She gave you the vinegar."
Antonio tasted it. "You're getting too used to the fine wines at the men's meetings, brother. It's good, simple wine. It's meant for simple men, as we both are."
Marcus gave him a look, then shook his head. "You may be simple but Mother wants me to divorce my wife and take someone she likes more. She's getting pushy."
"Children are as slaves to their parents' will," Antonio said dryly. "Make sure she doesn't find you one like mine." He heard screaming start and sighed, getting up. "Let me handle that." He went back to her suite, finding the new boy was in there with coals for the fireplace. "Yes, he's new to the house and to his station. Did you knock, boy?"
"Amena did, sir."
"His proper title..." the wife started but her husband glared.
"Sir is fine. He was sold so his mother was without male protectors and could be taken from her widowed home." She snorted, stomping off. "Go ahead. You are not to touch her."
"I understand, sir. I would not."
"Good boy." He watched the boy load the coals into the fireplace then some wood from nearby, getting a smile. "Good job. Do whatever she wanted you to." He nodded, going to do that while he went to talk to his wife. "I saved him from a fate worse than being shipped off as a plaything," he told her gently. "Be kinder to him. He has no idea what's going on yet."
"His mother?" she demanded, glaring at him.
"I plan on asking today. He said some man wanted her widowed hand and made sure she wouldn't have protectors."
She snorted. "She probably..." The boy came back, putting a plate and glass next to her then leaving silently. She stared at him. Then at her spouse. "He is young."
"He is," he agreed. "The ones who were bidding on him would have kept him in prostitution until it killed him."
She grimaced. "Then I suppose it's a charitable act the Gods would like." She nibbled the cheese. "Are the brothers over?"
"Marcus and I were talking. Daedalus was fixing something in the kitchen."
"Of course he was." She sighed, looking at him. "I will have use of this new one?"
"I got him for the household. Marcus probably thinks I got a new wineboy."
She rolled her eyes. "Leave me, husband. I'll be gentle with the new boy." He nodded, leaving. She glared at his back. "For now. Until he's well broken in."
The scene changed to a nighttime and the boy sobbing naked in a corner. They knew it was a few weeks after he had been found and bought somehow. Marcus walked in and found him. "Tiberius, what happened?" He carefully moved closer, looking for injuries. This was not like the boy and there weren't many reasons to keep a slave naked, even in Rome.
"The mistress," he sobbed.
"Antonio!" Marcus called. He walked in, frowning at the sight before them. "He said it was your wife's fault. I can't see any lash marks."
"Nor do I," he admitted, pulling the young man up. "What did my wife do?"
"She had me stand and touched me. I.... I disgraced myself," he sobbed, clinging to him. "I did not touch her, Master. I swear I did not."
"I know you didn't," he soothed. "You've been very good since you came to us." He patted him on the back. "Amena?" She came out of the kitchen, scowling at the boy. "Get him something to wear?"
"Your wife confiscated his clothes, Master. She had intentions of breeding him with her maid."
"Not at his age," Antonio told her. "Get him something to wear." She nodded, going to do that. She came back with a simple toga and he handed it to the boy, letting him put it on. "Sit. Let me talk to my wife, see what spirit has taken her mind this time. Wife!" he bellowed.
"How sweetly you do summon her," Marcus joked, sitting down. "Tiberius, get me some wine?" He nodded, going to do that. A few minutes later he brought back two cups in one hand and the other held a newly filled vase of wine. "Thank you." He poured himself some and his brother some, handing it over. "Corner, Tiberius. You want to be out of her way," he said gently. The boy nodded, going back to the warm corner. His sister-in-law glided in regally. "You look like an Empress," he said dryly, sipping his wine. He gave his brother the other cup. "Soothe your temper first."
He gulped it and handed it back. "You touched him? After I had ordered him not to touch you?"
"I was only examining it, husband. My maid wishes a child and it would do good for our family to have another child here."
"He's a boy," he spat.
She sneered. "Children are a God's gift," she spat back. "None have blessed this house in years."
He growled, pulling her to him. "Is that what this was about? You could have simply asked, wife." He sat her down, pulling her struggling body into his lap to have her. When he was done he let her go. "Go back to your room. Leave the boy alone."
"Are you going to have my maid too?" she sneered.
"I'm going to take her for my wife," Marcus told her. She shrieked, standing up. "Leave us, woman. Now."
"I'll tell the Senate what you two do."
"I doubt it since you were the one who was calling our daughter's lineage into question," Antonio said coldly, standing up. "All others know how you sleep around, wife. Word has gotten back to me. I have pointed out that's why I do not lay with you." She slapped him and stomped off. "Confine yourself to your quarters. We will be talking on the morrow."
"No, we will not," she shrieked.
Marcus looked at his brother. "May I?"
"Take my two children to your house tonight. The others too. Tiberius, I want you to guard my son for now. She's a vengeful one." He nodded, going to help his step-master get the children and the others in the household. Antonio finished off another glass of wine to give himself time to calm down. Then he called in a favor. He went up the street to a friend's house. His maid met him. "I have need of your master's first son," he said quietly.
"He's still at the Senate, Master Antonio."
"Who is it?" a female voice called.
"Master Antonio, mistress. From up the street."
"My wife has lost her sense," Antonio admitted when the woman of the house showed up. "She attacked a slave and said it was because we've not had the blessing of children. When I pointed out why she went into a rage."
"You need my son to sign the divorce decree?" He nodded. "Come into the study. He came back an hour earlier through the back gate." She let him in, walking him back that way. "We all know why you have not had more children."
"I know too and I told her why." She knocked and let him inside. "I'm sorry to bother you so late. My wife has lost her sense. She assaulted the young boy I bought recently."
"Is he technically legal?" the young Senator asked.
Antonio looked at him. "Barely. He's still in shock from being sold so his mother was without male protectors."
"I've heard you asked about his family with one of the senators from that way. They said he kept her and one of her daughters. Though that one has been seen crying recently. They think she'll flee soon."
"Let her know she can come to our house to rest," he promised. "The other?"
"Got sold to a sort you'd hate," he admitted. He wrote out a name and handed it over. "He has her. I have introduced this problem to other senators since it's not a new one. They agree something must be done to protect a man's children." He grimaced. "Your wife attacked him?"
"Touched him, claims she was testing him to see if her maid would be bred by him. Claimed that we haven't been blessed by children and insinuated the Gods weren't happy about that. I told her why I would not lay with her any longer."
"As most of us know," the senator agreed. He pulled out a bigger sheet of paper and wrote out something. "Sign." He did that. He looked at it then let his father sign and his mother. "I'll file this for you tomorrow. They're at your family's?" Antonio nodded. "Good luck. Even Juno has not a temper like your former wife."
Antonio smiled. "She'll be very sad when she leaves without more than the clothes on her back. Thank you." He left, taking the name back with him. He met his younger brother there. "Are they safe?"
"Very. My wife took in the children and Tiberius." He looked at the name. "I know of him."
"That's where one of his sisters was sold."
"I'll get with Marcus about that, Antonio." He laid a hand on his arm. "We are divorcing her?"
"It will be filed tomorrow." That got a smile. "Come work this safe you built her for her wedding gift. She's not leaving with anything." They walked back there, having to kick in the door. He walked in and calmly lifted his wife up, stripping her of her jewels and shoes, shoving her at his brother. "Send her from this house. She is no longer my wife. Let the others who have bedded her take her in." He nodded, dragging her out struggling. His brother wasn't that strong but she knew better than to hurt him. The other two had taken on more than a few people who wanted to hurt their very smart little brother. He heard the front door slam. "Thank you." Daedalus came back with a smile. "Someone waiting on her?"
"Marcus. With a sword. He'll be in later."
"Is he killing her?"
"I think he wanted to have a talk with her about how she was trying to touch his daughters last week." Antonio shuddered, shaking his head. "Let me help you pack this up for the next wife." They got to work on it, putting all the jewels in the large safe box. She had the combination but she never remembered it. Everything was drug into his brother's rooms, put into his corner. Marcus came in. "She alive?"
"I did nearly stab her but a centurion was riding by and I told him why. He drug her off. I'm having her charged with touching my daughter last week." He put down his sword, looking at his brother. "Everyone in the family is safe. Your daughter and my daughters are all very happily doing each other's hair and talking while Tiberius cuddles the toddling son to help him sleep again." That got a smile. "Any news on his family?" Daedalus handed over the paper. He sneered. "We have knowledge of that one. We removed three succuba from there a few months back." He smirked at his brother. "We'll bring her here and help her heal."
"I hope she hasn't been used too harshly or given something."
"If she looks like her brother, no one would use her harshly. She'd be a favorite," Marcus pointed out gently. His brother groaned but nodded. "I'll get her tomorrow for you." He took a gentle kiss on the lips. "There, better?"
"Must I take another wife?"
"Someone must raise your children and hopefully give this family more sons," Daedalus said gently. "My wife has none yet."
"Your wife is barren," Marcus told him. "We knew that before you married."
"I love her too much to divorce her."
"Then lay with her maid. They're still children of the line," Marcus told him. "She might agree."
"She told me if I did not even anything the Gods could think up would put my manhood back together again."
"How did we three end up with women who make shrews envious of their natures?" Antonio asked.
Marcus laughed. "Mother."
"Ah. No wonder." He shook his head. "Come, we should rest. Tomorrow will be another long day. Your guards, Marcus?"
"Both are on guard against her, right outside the nursery." That got a nod and they laid down on the same bed, cuddling their brother. He needed one after tonight. If more happened between him and Marcus, Daedalus simply rolled the other direction like usual. He had no need to see Marcus servicing his elder brother orally. He could see it quite well in his head when he was alone some other night.
The scene changed and Tiberius was bothering his master in his office. "Master?" He looked up and smiled. "My sister is better, sir, thank you."
"You're welcome. Still having the nightmares?"
"No longer." He came in and shut the door. "Any word on my other one?"
"I have heard she married well to a carter's son." That got a smile and a nod. "She knew him?"
"They've been friends of the family for years. My father worked for them when planting was over with. He'll be good to her." He came closer. "I do not understand things. Would you explain things to me, Master?"
"Why would anyone want to touch my sister?"
"She is pretty," he admitted. He put down his quill. "Surely you've felt those urges?"
"Now and then I find a woman pretty but I wouldn't dare touch her, sir." He looked down but his master tipped his face back up. "I do not understand why anyone would touch another that way."
He looked at him. "Mostly it's a matter of pleasure. Sometimes it's a matter of children but mostly a matter of pleasure."
He blushed. "She said it was not."
"She was used, not touched as a lover does," he instructed. "There's a large difference. Those who hurt her were like my former wife when she touched you." He blushed brighter but nodded. "That is not expected of you here, Tiberius," he said gently. "Marcus may sleep with one of his wife's maids but I do not sleep with my slaves."
"Even if they asked?"
"If they asked that I might consider," he admitted. "Is your sister considering asking?"
"Her as well," he admitted sheepishly.
Antonio looked at him. "What future did your mother have in mind for you, Tiberius?"
"She was about to apprentice me with a Master Carver. He seemed like a decent sort and I do like working with stones and wood to build things. That's why I follow your brother around all the time." That got a small smile and a nod. "He does not mind?"
"Not that he's told me. I'll make sure if you want."
"I don't want to upset him."
"You would know if you had. He would yell. He does it very well. Even better than Marcus' wife sometimes. Sometimes even into the same vocal range as she shrieks." Tiberius nodded. "If you're asking my permission to ask my brother to bed you, that's between you two," he said, catching a clue.
"I would not know what to say. Much less what to do. I don't take your brother as one who would touch a boy either."
Antonio looked at him. "Come here." He pulled the younger man into his lap, shifting him and undoing his breech cloth. "Squeeze your thighs together." He blushed but did that, letting him slip his cock between the firm thighs. He rubbed a bit. "This is how most of the men have relations with their male slaves," he said in his ear, getting a nod. "Squeeze harder." He did that and Antonio came, relaxing some. "Do you know why it's pleasurable?"
"Because it feels good to rub yourself?" he said quietly. Antonio patted his back, smiling when he looked back. "Thank you, sir."
"Welcome. Now, go clean up. Daedalus was tearing up the kitchen again." He nodded, going to do that then help his favorite of the brothers. He tucked himself back into his toga, going back to the household accounts. It was a good stress break. The middle brother came in. "What's wrong, Marcus?"
"Your former wife was pregnant. She miscarried."
"I'm sorry to hear that." He looked at him. "Close the door." He did that, smirking at him. "Young Tiberius has a crush on our brother."
"I've noticed him following him around like he's an acolyte to a God." He grinned, coming over to kiss him. "And yourself? Was he nice?"
"I was very gentle showing him."
Marcus tipped his face up. "Plenty have sex like you and your wife did, or like we do," he reminded him gently. "I'll have a talk with Daedalus about being gentle with him." He looked at the papers. "Want to do mine too?"
"These are yours. Why is your wife spending numerous gold this month?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted, looking at the forms. "Hmm. I'll have to see." He shrugged and went to pull their brother away from the sink in the kitchen. He walked him out into the garden, looking at him. "Have you noticed a cub following you?"
"I have," he admitted, giving him a shy look. "I do not want to hurt him."
"Antonio showed how mentors usually had sex with their students. Nothing internal but he showed him the gentle way."
Daedalus blushed bright red. "We'll see. He's not my slave."
"I don't think Antonio would mind as long as you were gentle and nice to him," Marcus told him. Daedalus looked at the house then at him. "Talk to him later tonight. I don't think he understood why people touch before then. He asked Antonio." That got a nod and he went back to the sink, watching his helper and how he blushed and reacted around him. Marcus smiled, looking at the sister. "He won't hurt him."
"I know." She gave him a gentle smile. "Our Lord and Master should know something."
"He's in the study. Come on." He walked her that way. "One more interruption and then I'll go talk with my wife about her spending ways."
"Come in, Athena." She walked in and bowed to him. "You don't have to do that." He gave her a gentle smile. "What's wrong?"
"I...." She glanced at Marcus, who gave her a look.
"It's not mine," he told her. "How far?"
"My womanly cycles stopped this month."
"Then we'll get a healer in to see you. Do you want the babe?" Antonio asked gently.
She looked at him then shook her head. "Were it a member of this family, I would not mind and I would gladly take a wife's place to spare her. This one is from a foul man who I did not respect or want," she said quietly, looking at the floor.
He tipped her face up. "Then we'll get a healer in to see you. Tell Amena. Let her help you. She's had two children before we bought her." She nodded, going to do that. "Go find the healer?"
"On my way," Marcus agreed, heading out to do that. Then to yell at his wife. What had she bought that took nearly a hundred gold? He found the healer in the market. "Healer."
He looked at him. "Marcus." He shook his hand. "What's wrong? Your wife finally with child again?"
He leaned down. "The chick that Antonio rescued for her brother is," he said in his ear. "She was with Gorgos." He straightened up. "She does not think it worthy of burial."
"I can agree with that. I'll stop by to see her tonight. She's young. Legal age?"
"A year over. Her brother is the youngest of the three."
"That's fine. I'll be by tonight. Has Amena helped her do anything?"
"She's only just told us. She found out this month."
"We'll talk about her options tonight." He nodded, leaving him to his shopping. "That poor girl. Her new masters aren't that mean."
Marcus went home to his wife, finding her screaming at his oldest daughter. "Is she the reason why we spent more this last month than we have for the last year?" he asked blandly. She glared at him. He glared back. "I'm not the Emperor."
"It was necessary. My bedroom broke."
"If you wouldn't bring your manwhore in there it wouldn't break," his daughter shot back. Her mother went for her but Marcus got between them.
"Daughter, I would hear more of this but doing it this way is not safe."
"Yes, Father. Can I visit Uncle's?"
"They're both at Antonio's." She ran from the house to find safety. He looked at his wife. "What manwhore is this?" She went pale. "Will we have a similar scene to what my brother had? Because I will not put up with a public scandal. I know our marriage was not a love match but if you humiliate this family I will do you worse than what he did to her."
"I know what you fight with him," she sneered.
"Things that would eat you, our children, and the Empire," he agreed dryly. "It's not a well guarded secret with as many times as we get woken up at night to handle things." She stomped off. "Are you going to demand a son as well?"
"No!" She turned to sneer at him. "We have our children."
"That's fine, my next wife can give me a son," he assured her. She slammed the door and he sighed, shaking his head. "She used to be sweet. I should check her for possession." His youngest daughter peeked out of the kitchen. "It's safe. What have you seen?"
"He looks like Uncle Daedalus," she said with a grin. "Very pretty, even wears Egyptian makeup." She ran to her bedroom and shut herself in there.
"You're sleeping with a bard!" he said, sounding outraged. "I'm better in bed than all of them are, wife!"
"He's not a bard, he's paid because you're never home!" she shrieked from her room.
He went to kick in her door and look at her. "Is this why my mother wants me to divorce you and marry her maid?" She threw something at his head. "As long as no children come from it, he doesn't touch ours, and I don't have to see the little creature, and as long as he's not demonic, I truly don't care. Ours was a political marriage, wife. I'm realistic. Quit spending so much money."
She snorted. "I did break my bed."
"I remember doing that with you, that's how we got our second daughter," he pointed out. "No issue had better come from his loins and yours."
"I'm barren," she said smugly. "The healer said so."
"That's fine. Mother still wants me to marry her maid and divorce you since there's only one son in the entire family."
"Daedalus can sire some."
"His wife is truly barren. They found a lump that's not a child." He leaned on the doorframe. "Who is he?"
"He's very pretty."
"Which is boring after a while. Trust me." He stared at her and she huffed. "It is."
"When I'm bored with him I'll ask Antonio for his wineboy."
He smirked, shaking his head. "He's fascinated with Daedalus." She groaned, sitting down. "Sorry."
"Why is it that I married into a man-loving and brother-loving family?"
"The fighting we do makes us this close," he reminded her. "Speaking of, we might need your help. Athena, Tiberius' sister, ended up with child from her time with Gorgos."
"That poor child. Is Antonio being reasonable?"
"He left it up to her. The healer's coming to speak to her tonight."
"Agreed. Should I expect to switch my maid this year?"
"No," he said with a small smirk. "She's very nice. Very understanding. She doesn't spend me poor, woman."
"I won't break the bed," she said snidely. "When do you go out next?"
"It's not like they give us advance warning most of the time. We're lucky we're still whole after sticking the Beauteous One into a form she can't get out of."
She nodded, standing up, coming over to smooth down his hair and then his toga's shoulders. "I understand why you must. I would rather that we had a son but we do not."
"Our younger daughter seems to be a fair imitation," he said with a small smirk, kissing her. "I do not care but either buy a cheaper one or find someone free, wife. As long as it does not create a scandal."
"Yes, husband." She walked around him. "We're going to Antonio's," she called. Her other daughter rushed out and she looked at her. "Do your clothes and hair! I will not have you disgrace us by wearing that!"
"Just think, some year soon she'll be marrying someone," Marcus called, smirking at his wife.
She gave him a look. "I'd rather she went to the Order."
"Not our decision."
She snorted, going to hurry her daughter up. "When is your brother going to remarry?"
"I'm not sure. No one's come forward yet." He escorted them back, finding Daedalus had taken Tiberius home with him that night to help him fix something. He smirked at Antonio. "She was dating a bard."
"I'm sorry. The shame must be horrible," he joked. He smiled at his niece. "The children are in the nursery."
"Can I see your horse?"
"He's out back in the stable," he said tolerantly. She went to pet him. He looked at his sister-in-law. "I need a new wife. My son Volka thinks Tiberius is a girl."
"It's the hair. That's why so many of us thought Daedalus was when he was younger. Also why we dressed him as one that once." He laughed, walking off. "Can I borrow Tiberius?"
"I think he has a prior commitment on his time," he said smugly. "I'll even transfer him over to him if he wants. Athena?" She came out of the kitchen. "The healer will be here tonight. He sent word he'd be over after dinner. I'd probably bathe and clean up a bit before then." She nodded, going to do that. He looked in on his housekeeper. "Marcus and his wife are also over."
"I saw the younger heathen," she said dryly. "It'll be a hard sell to have her married off."
"Her father was much like that until he found the joys of women's bodies," Antonio said dryly. "Once she knows what a man can do for her, she'll never fight again." He went back to helping his brother and his brother's wife settle in to relax for the night. The other daughter came out blushing and he looked at her. "Getting bad ideas?"
She knelt at his feet, looking at him. "Uncle, you are the head of the family."
"Your grandmother is the head of the family," her father corrected.
She stuck her tongue out at him. "Not for matters of marriage." She looked at her uncle again while her father gasped. "I have in mind someone I would like you to consider. Grandmother considers his whole line foolish but he's a Centurion."
"I would meet him," he told her. She smiled. "When is he coming?"
"Tonight, Uncle. Please?"
He nodded. "Let me change," he ordered. She hugged him and went to talk to the housekeeper, who had been clued in earlier. He came out in time to find Marcus answering the door. "Centurion." He nodded. He was much older and had rank. They all knew of him. "You and my niece?"
"Thank you for not dancing around it. I fear she's fascinated with my rank, not my being."
Marcus looked at him. "Both of my daughters are just like me, Fatir. They're all very headstrong." His daughter came out with wine and snacks, as was proper. "Very well done. Thank you for doing your hair as well."
"Father," she complained. "I was letting Volka play with my hair." She smiled at her intended. "Ignore him. He fusses horribly about our clothes too."
The Centurion smiled at her. "Some fathers do. My father fusses about my uniform." She offered him a glass of wine and they sat around to talk about his plans to let them get to know him as a man instead of as a warrior they sometimes had to get around to do their own jobs.
The scene changed again and this time it was Daedalus, who was slightly drunk, and Tiberius, who was naked in his bed. He kissed down his neck. "I will be gentle," he promised, grabbing some oil. He moved behind his new lover, slowly breaching him once he had his cock oiled. The boy made pained noises so he stopped. "I thought..." He looked at his face. "Has Marcus not..." He shook his head. "Damn it." He put an arm around him, holding him tightly. "Let me remove myself."
"No. Stay. It does feel good," he whispered, squeezing his hand. "Please?"
"I'll go more gently," he promised, adding more oil to himself. He slowly slid in and the boy squeezed down so he quit. A few more strokes and he was inside him. "What did my brother do?"
"Between my thighs."
"Ah. That is one way," he agreed, nibbling on his neck. He shifted and pulled back then thrust in again, making the boy groan. He did it again, changing his angle until he made a pleased noise that made him smile. "Good?"
"Much. What is that?"
"That is like a woman's nub only inside us. Only special men let themselves enjoy it and realize that it doesn't make them lesser." He did it again, pleasing them both. The boy shot off and he smiled, nibbling on his neck again. "More?"
"Please," he sighed happily, smiling at him. "My sister said that some weren't bad."
"Your sister was used horribly. I'd hope you weren't comparing us?"
"No. Not in the least. You're very kind, and you're smart, and you're wonderful to pay attention to me. I've heard it said we're spoiled."
"Highly," he agreed, smiling at him. He pulled back and thrust in again, making him squeal in pleasure. This was a treat he could get used to and it was giving him good ideas. He kept going until he was done and his boy was panting in need. He rested his chin on his shoulder. "Touch it as men do themselves." He blushed but did it for him, letting him see him come again. "Good boy," he whispered in his ear, getting a shiver. "Sleep in here tonight." He pulled out, letting the boy curl up on the foot of his bed. He smiled, settling in to sleep for a while before getting up to draw out the new ideas he had given him.
The mirror went blank and Xander looked at Blair. "You can see why I was freaked out."
"I'm wondering how our line got from a slave to an inn owner." He called Tony. "It's me. How did we come to own the inn?" He listened, then nodded. "That makes sense. Thanks." He hung up. "Apparently when Antonio and Marcus died Daedalus asked for and got the tower in return for all their good works and deeds. He took the wives, children, and slaves up there. Athena ended up having a child by Volka and she and he went to start the inn. When Daedalus needed him to come back she sent him home and married someone else, who was the other father of our line. She was given the inn when Daedalus died."
"Wow." He stared at the mirror then at him. "Marcus and Antonio were hot looking when they kissed."
Blair snickered but nodded. "They were. How are you dealing with those thoughts?"
Xander blushed, looking at him. "It's strange. I mean, I feel pulled toward you. I keep having dreams of us in your office." The mirror started up and he blushed because he was in Blair's lap, naked while his brother only had on a shirt. "Um..."
Antonio floated in and said something to the mirror, ending it. "He forgot the last few words on the next page that would end it." He smiled at them. "None of us would mind and do remember, you're not related now." He winked at Xander, who blushed. "Though if you two do end up that way, may we borrow you two again?"
"Depends on when you ask," Blair told him.
"I'll keep that in mind."
"Is it wrong to want a horse?" Xander asked him.
Antonio laughed. "No, young one. Only Vorchain loved his horse more than you used to love yours. There were even wicked rumors about it by those you thwarted. Not true I can assure you." Xander relaxed again. "Rest, think, love if you two decide to." He faded out, going to check on the others. He found Mac glaring at his paperwork. "Keep it up, there have been known to be those of the family who could cast spells to light things on fire."
Mac looked at him. "I'll keep that in mind. More problems?"
"I was visiting the two brothers and decided to come visit you as well." He smiled gently. "Xander was having more flashbacks to earlier than when they were together. Tony found the dream visualization spell for them. He thought I was hot. That is a good thing, right?"
"A very good thing," he agreed. His namesake was a lot like him, only more fun. "How are your brothers?"
"Bored. Daedalus is trying very hard to get the current Volka to turn over his control so Tony can take it. That would solve the gremlin and imp problems they've had."
"That's what that green skinned thing was," he realized.
"Until the old Volka either dies or hands it over, Tony can't take the vows and these will keep happening."
"What if I take it for now? Give us two? I'll give it up when he dies."
Antonio looked at him. "I don't know."
"They're causing numerous problems, Antonio. People are going to die from this."
"As was his worry. I'll see. Give me five minutes." He faded out, going home. "Mac has offered to take the vows as a second one then retire them to Tony when the current Volka passes. Would that help?"
Daedalus looked at him then nodded. "It could. It has in the past. I didn't even think about that. If Tony did it wouldn't pass to him but Mac could pass it on."
"Good." He smiled. "Go swear him in." His brother pointed at the statues. He huffed. "Find a way. Ask Abby. There must be a way to get him here in front of the statues without taking the time to travel."
He nodded, floating out to find Abby in her lab with Homer. He smiled at her. "A technical question. How would we get Mac to the statues so he can augment the current Volka until he dies? All vows must be made in front of the statue."
"You take the blue screen out of the library and bring it down there, make sure he has at least a camera on his end." She smiled at him, then at the director when she walked in.
"Epps is a member?" she demanded.
Daedalus looked at her funny. "Who? I'm Daedalus their younger brother and the maker of the Sorthes rituals." He kissed Abby. "Thank you, dear one. Come see us soon to tell us more stories about Tony?" He smirked before disappearing.
She smiled. "He's going to help the current Volka and needed video conferencing stuff."
"I...I ...didn't know...ghosts could use video conferencing," she said, looking very confused.
"Most likely they'll video conference in the person and the ghost will go up there to talk to him in person but some things have to be done in front of others."
She nodded, walking out. Then she came back. "No imps in the lab. They carry diseases."
"I know, that's why I got him all his shots and he's wearing sterile gear." She held up Homer, showing he was decked out like some odd, tiny surgeon. "See?" she said proudly. The director just nodded and left again, going to talk to Gibbs for a while before her head exploded. Abby smiled at Homer. "You look so adorable," she cooed, getting back to what she was working on, one hand petting his head.
The Director walked up to Gibbs' area, finding Tony and Ziva there. "Something's going on?"
"I heard," Tony said, looking at her. "One of the others is taking over as a second, or Younger as it used to be known. Basically it leads to having an apprentice until he dies and I can take over. Which means all the imps and gremlins will quit bothering people."
"I saw Homer," she said dryly.
"Is he still dressed like a little doctor?" Ziva asked. The director scowled. "I'll take that as a yes. Where did she find sterile gear that small?"
"They can come in child's sizes for times when they're in quarantine I guess," Tony told her. "I didn't have any come visit me so I don't know for sure." He looked at the director and smiled. "I should warn you, Xander's bringing a Watcher out to talk to me in a few weeks."
"Are you taking time off, DiNozzo?"
"No, we can do it after hours, Director, but Xander wants to take me to lunch while he's in." He grinned. "Fair warning."
"Which one was Xander?" Ziva asked.
"The younger, dark haired guy who babbled."
"As opposed to the curly haired one who babbled?" Ziva asked.
Tony nodded, smirking at her. "By the way, I've closed that spot in the insulation. Your bug is back in your top desk drawer."
"I saw. Thank you for not destroying it."
"Welcome. Tell your people the only thing that's changes is the tower moved and I growl more when you wake me up at three in the morning."
"I will." She made note of that, then typed it into an email. "There." She got back to work. "Where is Gibbs?"
"Talking to Ducky before Homer tries to give him another backrub." The director whimpered and Tony handed over something. "It's not dangerous but it's for witches. Just in case, Director. I have some of my own."
She looked at it, then at him. "What is it?"
"That works?" she laughed.
"Yeah, it turned Rosenburg." He grinned and tossed some of his stash on her, watching as she changed down to a brown mouse. "See?" He smirked at her. "Don't worry about Homer, Abby turned him into a vegetarian." The mouse scurried up the stairs. Ziva thoughtfully got the powder and carried it up there so she had it if she needed it. Tony got back to work, calling the morgue. "Hey, boss, the imp and gremlin issue is going to be solved soon." He hung up, getting back to work on his current report.
McGee came back frowning. "Did I see Ziva tracking a mouse?"
"Yup. Thank you for closing off the loophole for Ziva's bug, Probie."
"Welcome, Tony. How much longer?"
"Mac's going to have himself announced an apprentice so he can take on some of the burden. Then I'll take it when it's time." He grinned at him. "By midnight."
"Thank you. Abby clubbed two gremlins and Palmer's hiding in the closet because he knows you'll come use the sword on him this time for summoning the gremlins even though he didn't."
"I know. They're a natural menace. Is Grandmother still down there trading stories with Ducky?"
"Yup. Even Gibbs can't believe the trouble she used to get into. They're talking about her stallion."
"It's a hallmark of the line," Tony said dryly. "Shows she was meant to be one of us." McGee chuckled. Tony smiled up at the ceiling when he felt the shift happen, relaxing some. He called Abby. "Did Homer stay?" He nodded. "That's fine, Abby." He hung up. "She'll be summoning him back as her personal pet later." He called his girlfriend. "The gremlins and imps should be gone by midnight," he said when she growled at him. He laughed at her smart remark. "Yes, but not quite that way. An apprentice was found and took over some of it. So relax, it'll be all right now. No, apprentices don't always go on to take over the duties so he'll give it to me when it's time." He grinned a sappy grin. "Love you too. See you later." He hung up, getting back to his report. He hit print and held it up when he smelled coffee. "Preliminary copy, boss."
"Who?" he asked, taking it to look over.
"Mac took an apprentice's vow." He grinned. "It eased it off a lot."
"Good. Abby's pouting but she said she'll call Homer back later." He hit Tony on the head with it. "No changing the director into a mouse." He went to his seat, ignoring the very shocked looking McGee.
"I handed her some of it and she was skeptical," Tony defended. "So I showed her it worked. It's not like it hurt her. She could even see some different security breaches we have, boss."
"Don't even start, DiNozzo," Gibbs warned.
"At least Abby wouldn't let Homer eat a mouse," McGee said hesitantly.
"You should've seen her face when she heard that a ghost wanted video conferencing equipment," Tony joked. He got to work on something else before Gibbs could throw something at him. He knew that look on his face. It was not a good one.
Tony smiled at Xander and Giles as they walked into his apartment, waving a bit. "Hey. Coffee?"
"Please," Xander begged. He went to get a cup. "Can I have some advice later?" he asked quietly, looking at Tony.
"Do whatever you feel is best for yourself," he said gently.
"I have to consider Dawnie."
"If you do what's best for you it'll probably be best for her too."
He nodded. "Thanks."
"I'm not the paternal one. That's really more Mac's or Horatio's thing."
"I talked to Ryan. I have the feeling he was giving the phone funny looks." He shrugged, bringing Giles some iced tea since he found some in the fridge. "Here you go, Giles." He flopped down on the couch next to Tony. "What did the Council want anyway?"
"Mostly to set up an agreement that we weren't going to annihilate each other. There has been some animosity between the two groups."
"We consider you guys rich guys who play around," Tony agreed. "Does this mean you're giving me more books? Because I've got a bit of room left," he joked.
Giles smiled but shrugged. "That would come with lending privileges. I do know we don't have hardly anything in an electronic format. The last time someone tried they released the demon bound in the book online."
"Abby told me about that. Now and then she stills finds traces of it. She had to work out a hacker's version of holy water for it." Xander snickered. "She's good." He grinned at Giles again. "I'll leave your girl alone," he promised. Mostly because he didn't really like Buffy.
"Girls," Xander corrected. "I did CPR and brought Buffy back so now there's two."
"Is that why the Council hates you?" Tony asked dryly.
Giles nodded. "He and Willow both tend to throw the natural order as the Council sees it out of whack. Badly at times," he said, glaring at Xander.
"You wanted me to let her die? I could have."
"No, I'd rather she not be dead," he admitted, looking at Tony again. "The other is in jail for attacking a human."
"And me, and Wes, and Angel's team," Xander added dryly, sipping more of his coffee. "She was a bit on the escapee side for a while," he said when Tony looked at him.
"I hunt them down too," he admitted, getting comfortable. "You can assure them that I don't want to bomb them, Giles. A lot of information, both bad and shitty, would be lost if I did." That got a small smirk. "I've found some of the journals in our library and yeah, bad information. Does no one actually research? I mean, some of it directly goes against experience. Some of it wasn't what they thought either by description."
"There's been two types of Watchers - field and research. I myself was a research Watcher before they gave me Buffy. For some reason they gave me Buffy," he admitted dryly. "A number of the field watchers are like your military's grunt faction. They're there to do their job, get hurt or killed, and take the brunt of the action." He sipped his tea then smiled at Tony. "You know a fellow countryman?"
"Ducky," he agreed. "He's our ME."
"Mallard?" Giles asked. Tony smirked but nodded. "Well, tell him I said hello, even though he probably wouldn't remember me. He worked with me while I was at the London Museum on some anatomical displays for the mummy's room."
"I can do that. I'll probably be seeing him later." He shifted some, crossing his feet. "What do they want from me for not blowing them up this week?"
"We'd prefer it to last longer," Giles said with a small smile.
"That depends on me never having to see Travers again," Tony told him.
"I think that can be arranged." Giles sipped more of the very good tea. "We'd be willing to lend you books if you needed and even support your effort to put them all in an electronic format since it would help us in our own jobs. I know a great number of the other research Watchers do like computers, even though I've always felt it's better reading it from the book itself."
"He's got a slight aversion to them," Xander told him. "Can't even stand to use the ATM."
"That happens to some," Tony admitted. "Until they make a PDA that smells like a book it's not the same." Giles smiled and nodded at that. "What do they want in return? Book lending privileges?"
"That, or perhaps some research done now and then," Giles admitted. "Mostly we keep to ourselves as you do." Tony nodded at that. "Was that really Vorchain?"
"Yes it was," Tony agreed dryly. "He was cursed to walk until he found his perfect mate."
"He's apparently got some very high standards," Xander said dryly. "I'd offer Buffy to try." Giles glared at him. "It's better than Spike and he'd understand what she's done all her life."
"Quite but I doubt that's a charitable thought, Xander," he said firmly.
"It'd make her feel better and I'm sure he's better in bed than Spike is," Xander shot back. "See, happier Buffy."
"I don't think he's dated a blonde since a few of them tried to capture him in Sweden a few years back," Tony said thoughtfully.
"She's a bottle blonde," Xander shared, grinning at him.
"That could help. I'll suggest she could use a decent boyfriend. See if he likes her." He sipped more of his coffee, watching Giles turn shades no human should turn. "He's good to his women when he takes one. It'll save on whorehouse fees for a few years."
"He'll find another cub," Xander teased.
"He's got one," Tony admitted. "He can't travel with her. If someone found out he had an endangered hunting cat they'd take her from him. Even though she can and does hunt with him. She even rides on the back of his motorcycle." He grinned at Giles. "He's just like that."
"As I've heard told through some journals," he sighed, shaking his head. "While it could help her temperament, I doubt it'd be a good idea. She does tend to get a bit scatterbrained when she's dating."
"Ya think?" Xander asked dryly. He finished his coffee and stood up. "I'm going to check my email down in the library, Tony. You two have a good talk." He left them alone since it looked like they were going to play nice for a while. He didn't want to see Travers again either and Giles dying would mean he'd have to.
"He's a good boy," Giles said quietly once they were alone.
"I know that." He stared at him for a few seconds. "We're a family group, Mr. Giles. We don't throw people away because they may have made a few mistakes. Or else none of us would have ever talked back in Roman times. We don't care that Xander shakes up the world view of a few stuffy old white guys. Plenty of us think it's well past time for that due to your conscription methods and the feelings and training that you put into the girls to make them be like robots. So whatever he's done I'm sure he had a good reason."
"He has lied to the group in the past."
Tony held up a hand. "If you're talking about the whole Angelus thing? He had to. Not like your girl could've taken him. She had proved that repeatedly from what I understand. Xander made a very good field decision in that matter. He's sought advice on if he did the right thing or not and we all agreed when we heard what he did. A few of us were all for hunting him down at that point in hindsight. Even knowing that he came back as a warrior for the light again. There was the mass feeling that he was too dangerous to be left alone. A few still think he is."
Giles nodded. "That thought had crossed my mind as well," he admitted. "But in hindsight I could see it was for a higher purpose."
"To make Buffy learn what a real relationship was like?" Tony asked dryly, staring him down. "Or to bust the illusion that all who fight are good?"
"Probably the latter. I know she's never forgiven him. Angel did. He realized he had opened the portal and had to close it."
"Then at least he's got some sense."
"Yes, well, Xander's ex-girlfriend is working with him. I'm sure there's some days he wishes he was back there." Tony snorted. "What would you need from us?"
"We can teach each other how to hunt, how to use all the proper weapons, and how to identify and research, though most of us are police officers of one sort or another," he admitted dryly. "Now and then we might need a few magic books. It runs through my line but most of us can't use it. Vorchain can barely light a candle."
"I'm worried about Dawn's involvement," Giles told him. "Since we're on the subject of magic."
"Most of us don't know what she is and we'd welcome her for who she is," Tony told him. That got a nod. "If Xander brought her, we'd train her as well. Starting in self defense because every girl should have that training. Ancelin was right about that."
He smiled and nodded. "I can see that. I fear he wants to take her to Cascade in a permanent manner."
"Blair does complete his soul," Tony said dryly, smirking at him. "Xander is a reborn Chapalet, Mr. Giles. Even if he finds a woman to date, nothing's going to be stronger than the pull toward his family. Adopted or not." He looked at him again. "Besides, wouldn't it be better if she was in a less dangerous area?"
"Cascade isn't really less dangerous. They seem to have all manner of terrorists."
"Which Blair's partner Jim deals with," Tony agreed. "It's true she'd be mostly surrounded by men up there - Jim, Blair, Jim's boss Simon from what I've heard - but it'd be safer overall. She wouldn't have to worry about someone taking her to get revenge on her sister. She wouldn't have to worry about being turned or eaten. She could be a normal teenager for a good, long time."
"Xander's had a spotty work history," he said grimly.
"Even Cascade has construction sites," Tony pointed out. "I'm sure Xander can go to one of those if he wants. Or he could actually start college if you and the other Watchers were kind about it. Though I do think he still wants his long-lost horse back."
"He had a horse?"
"That he loved. He babied his beast back then. People used to spread malicious rumors about him and his horse." Giles smiled a bit at that. "The madmen brothers were some of the greatest people to work with. They were caring but they were hellish in a fight. I'm sure those two have brains and strategy down when they're together. Getting Blair up to speed on hunting techniques, swords, and then artillery would help him a great deal. Even if he is a pacifist, he's seen how important this is." That got a nod. "Though I would watch out for his mother. We have a federal file on her. I did his background myself because it was nearly thirty pages long with his mother's file added in."
"Ah. One of them." He nodded, finishing his tea. "May I see your library?"
"Sure." He got up, leading him down there, finding Xander looking through a book. "No new emails?"
"Looking something up for Ryan. He was on the list looking for something in an herbal cure way. He apparently got a bit of an injury earlier." Tony came over to look at the email, groaning a bit. "Is there an eyewash that would promote healing?"
"Godiva's mix," Giles said, looking around until he found a book he knew had it. He flipped through it, coming back to hand it to him. "What it does is reduce inflamation without hindering any healing going on."
"He's on some pretty strong antibiotics," Xander told him.
"That would still help and it would soothe some of the pain. What happened?"
"Nail to the tear duct."
Giles shuddered. "That poor boy. Have him use that once he's out of the hospital."
"He's out. They pulled it and released him," he said grimly, typing that page of information in. Then he got up to photocopy the page and fax it down as well. "There, that should help. I sent it to Horatio's office." He hit send on the email and watched as a few others offered sympathy. "That poor guy."
Tony patted him on the back. "It'll be okay, Xander. He'll heal. If this makes him retire he'll go to straight lab tech instead or something close to it." He nodded. "This is the family's library," he told Giles. That got a smile. "As you can see, we moved the whole tower before they demolished it." He walked him out and across the hall, taking him to the other library. "This was my family's personal library from Long Island. It's a lot more reading books than not." Giles smiled at a few of the titles. "Nothing like the Watcher's I know."
"No, but as you said, half of ours are shite," he said dryly. That got a laugh and a nod. "I would like to know how the putting books online part is going."
"Not online but on CD so we can send packs out to others. We're working on a way to make them easily searchable. Looking for keywords, looking for specific terms. It's probably going to take a good part of my inheritance but it's worth it so we don't end up losing some of the knowledge if another fire happens. We lost about ten journals and a few other books during the last one."
"Yup. Someone fell asleep and tipped it over onto the table," he agreed. "We lost them from the burns."
"It's happened to us as well. That's why we've had scribes who have copied every book so others could have copies in the field. My own collection is about the size of this room." He smiled at him. "And I will leave it to you instead of to them since they don't need it. It does have a lot of magic books in it since I used to practice." Tony beamed and nodded. "You'd have to buy some more bookshelves and get someone in to dust."
"I know. I'm letting Abby's pet imp dust most of the time." That got an odd look. "You'd have to meet Abby. Really. She got it flea medicine, shots, clothes. Pets it all the time. The thing's a vegetarian now and getting fat. Still has impish manners too."
Giles shook his head. "Travers would be driven insane by that alone."
"You should tell him," Xander called from across the hall. "Homer's pretty cool. She sends him with messages now and then. That's what freaked Buffy out last night. He was playing with her hair."
Giles shook his head, making Tony laugh. "Like I said, you'd have to get to know Abby."
"I'll try to keep her and Willow apart. Before Willow warps her."
"Thanks." He led him back upstairs, getting him some more tea, talking about the books Giles had in his collection. It'd be good to add them to his some day. With where lived and what he did, it'd be someday soon.
Xander looked at the social worker Dawn had assigned to her. "I asked to see you today because I'm having a dilemma."
"All right. Is she having problems? We can refer her to counseling."
"Actually, she's not. A bit of acting out but a week with my friends up in Washington helped some of that. It gave her sister time to defrag too." That got a smile and a nod. "The problem is that Sunnydale is highly dangerous. She was nearly attacked last night."
"And you want to do what?"
"I want to take her to Cascade. I've got a job lined up starting in three weeks. It's a good construction job and I'll make enough to afford an apartment." She nodded slowly. "Cascade has good schools. It has a great state college in the town. I've got more friends up there, all older friends, one with a teenage child of his own who's given me some ideas when I needed it to help Dawn with her acting out," he said, shrugging a bit as he shifted. "I think it'd be better for her. Safer definitely."
"Doesn't know we're having this meeting yet."
"I see." She considered it. "You do have sole custody. Her mother's will said that her sister lived a dangerous life."
"Which is part of why she was nearly attacked last night. Up there, my friends are a few cops and an anthropologist who works with them. Blair's like a brother to me. He found me the guy to talk to about the job," he admitted, shifting again. "I know there's the additional problem of the house. She and I talked generally about moving during the vacation and she said she'd let Buffy live there and sell it when she died or before she went to college." That got a faster nod. "I know you guys could throw absolute hissies and put me in jail for it. That's why I'm here."
"It's a good idea to check this action before you make any concrete plans," she agreed, considering it. "I would like to speak to Dawn."
"She's at the arcade. I let her loaf today." He texted her, getting back a 'be there in ten'. He showed her, getting a smile. "I don't want to go behind Buffy's back but she's having problems dealing with the fact that her mother's not coming back. Ever. She's got a lot of problems with her normal life beyond that. I want Dawn safer." She was let in. "Hey, sprout."
"Hey." She sat down, smoothing out her skirt. "I know he let me skip but I think this is a good reason."
"I agree, this is a good reason." She smiled at Xander. "Give us a few minutes?" He nodded, leaving them alone with a shoulder squeeze for her. "What do you think Cascade can give you that Sunnydale can't, Dawn?"
"For starters a less threatening environment. My sister's life has come back to haunt me a few times. Not to mention the fact that some of her friends are a bit dangerous too. Her ex is a PI in LA." She got comfortable. "It's got a better school system. Blair and I talked to a teacher before I talked to Xander about it. I'm the one who brought up that we were both thinking about it. Their schools are *tons* better. I'd actually be behind a full year there at this point because Sunnydale sucks so badly." That got a nod. "Plus Blair's pretty cool. He's teaching me to cook. He's a great cook," she said with a smile. "He's been nearly everywhere it seems. His roommie Jim is pretty decent, if a bit uptight. We can hang and complain about Xander and Blair babbling at each other. It's also not where my mother died on the couch. It's not where she fainted and where we found out she had a brain tumor. If something medical happened, Cascade's got some excellent hospitals. Sunnydale's has such a high death rate I'm not sure how they're still open."
She swallowed. "Also, Xander has other friends in other cities and some of them are pretty neat guys. Mostly cops and a few federal agents. One slacker kinda who's fun and tells great stories but is super protective over me whenever he's around. He's the one who beat the guy coming for me last night. Xander doesn't know he's in town. It's our secret that he's watching out for me." That got a small smile. "I can't fault Xander for not being there. He was at work when I was attacked; it was during the day instead of the night like usual." She plucked at her hemline. "I also think I'd be in a more diverse area. Sunnydale has almost no one of other races or ethnicities. Cascade has a thriving Asian population and it's pretty near Canada. I could get up there now and then for getting out of town. Jim and Blair camp all the time and I could learn from them. Jim said it's not that hard and he's more than happy to help Xander teach me self-defense. Plus it'd be better for Xander. A higher salary, a better job, no ex-girlfriend who was a nagging brat some nights and wanting him back so she could get sex and dump him this time."
"They broke up?"
"Yeah, they broke up. Blair made Xander see that Anya was using him pretty majorly and sucking him dry and energyless every night. It got so bad Xander went into debt because of her not wanting to spend her own money. He made sure it went to her money as well. Even though she tried to steal his in a fit of 'I'm a woman, you're supposed to buy me things'."
"I was hoping Anya would have been a better role model."
She smiled then shrugged. "Anya's a bit odd. Xander has had a few bad girlfriends. I will have female role models. One kinda flighty one in Blair's mother Naomi. She's a hippie and protestor. There's a female detective in the unit Jim works in. Simon's still on speaking terms with his ex-wife. He introduced us. He took us to church. I hadn't been in years since Mom didn't really go." She grimaced then cleared it up. "Simon's got a very strong moral code and he's made sure I know where he stands on things so I can't get his son in trouble if I start to act out again."
"Which is what a good parent should do," she agreed. "What about Blair and Jim? Are they together?"
"No," she said with a smile. "Blair's had a few girlfriends. He's a graduate student working on his dissertation in anthropology. Xander and Blair can get cuddly on a couch now and then while they talk. It's very clear they clicked as big brother and little brother. Jim rolls his eyes because the only one who understands either of them in high babble mode is the other. Xander's saved Blair once when one of his students tried to take him hostage. Jim thanked him for doing his job that time." That got a nod and a note made. "It's not always like that. Jim's a very good detective and now and then one of his cases likes Blair too."
"I've heard that can happen." She looked at her. "I am worried that you won't have any close female role models."
She smiled. "I'll have some. There's Abby, she's in DC but we already chat all the time. She works with Tony, who knows Blair and Xander. He's a Fed and she's a lab tech. She's the one I talked to about the shoplifting stuff I had been doing. By the way, Xander stopped us on the way up in Big Sur and screamed at me for nearly an hour about that. I don't want to do it anymore and I understand I was looking for attention. Now I know I can get it from him and all I need to do is open my mouth to speak. I was being hesitant. Then he and Simon talked about what would help me more. Simon made him take me to play and out to dinner and it was so great. It was like Mom doing it again." She swallowed again. "It's gotten more smooth since then. Now that Xander knows what I need he's always there for me."
"That's what I'd expect of him," she agreed. She tapped her fingers a few times. "Any other female role models?"
She shrugged. "I only know the Major Crimes unit and a few of Blair's fellow grad students. I'm sure I'll meet more the longer I'm up there."
"Good point. You've been a sensible girl for the most part, Dawn. I'm not surprised you acted out." She shrugged at that, grimacing some. "Are you over it?"
"Pretty muchly. Now and then I hit a spot of stress and my fingers itch to shoplift but Xander gives me this look and I relax and it's better. We talked about Mommy a few times over the break and it was good for me. I figured out I could share the memories I have with him and he won't get upset and he wants to hear them. He's got some where Mom totally mommed him too. And you know, Buffy's more than able to come visit us up there. I'll let her live in the house until she dies or I go to college. Either one. Besides, Sunnydale's got too many bad memories. We buried Tara a few weeks back. Willow went off the deep end. Giles is helping her and my sister. Xander's my anchor but I'd like my anchor to be in calmer waters."
"I can see how that would be a good thing," she said, staring at her. "What about sports?"
"I'm fashionable, not sporty," she said with a small smirk. "Jim likes basketball and he said he'd try to explain it to me or take me to the batting cage if I wanted to join softball."
"Good." She called the receptionist. "Send Xander Harris back please?" She hung up, smiling when Xander came in. "She seems excited about moving."
"I'd hope so," Xander said, sitting down and smiling at her. "Did you beat my score at Mortal Kombat?"
She snorted. "No! I beat Buffy's and Willow's." She gave his arm a hug. "I told her about the better education and how it was more diverse and how I talked to Abby about stuff and we'd have Blair's mother when she came back and all the good points."
"The only bad point I can see is that you'd be away from your support network," the social worker told her.
She pointed at Xander. "He is my support network. Buffy's lost. Giles is struggling to balance her and Willow so neither one finish going over the deep end of the sanity waterfall. That's why I was acting out. Willow was going evil and Buffy had to help her and Giles had to help her and Xander had to help her while helping me. It wasn't good for us."
She nodded. "It sounds like you two have made a decent family." She looked at Xander. "Cascade, Washington?" He nodded. "I'm not going to fuss but I will be sending her file up there to them so they can keep an eye on you. I would like her to have more substantial female role models. At the moment she's got her sister and one lesbian girl. Her mother would have wanted...."
"She loved Willow like a daughter and gave Tara naughty ideas to make Willow blush," Dawn told her. "My mother was not a bigot. She was all for it if as long as it came with an emotional tie, lady."
She nodded. "The state still doesn't appreciate them."
"The state can blow me," Dawn told her.
Xander coughed. "Dawn, your mother gave you manners," he reminded her.
She slumped. "It sucks."
"It does in this point in history. Someday our great-great-great grandkids will look back and see this time's bigotry as nearly as bad as Hitler or something." She nodded, giving him another hug. He looked at the social worker. "Is Cascade going to have the same bias?"
She shrugged. "I have no idea, Mr. Harris."
"That's fine. I'll introduce her to Anya. She'll beg me to date men instead." Dawn giggled. "Any thinking woman would." He smiled at her. "So we're clear?"
"You're clear to move with her. I'll transfer the file up there. Three weeks?" He nodded. "Okay. You'll have to sign her up with them for the medical card and foodstamps if you qualify." He nodded at that. "Good. Now, she should be in school."
She looked at her. "I'm about to be held back by a year. It won't matter very much if I skip today. Really." She got up and shook her hand. "Thank you." She walked out on Xander's arm, smiling at him. "Call the Blair?"
"I'll call Blair once we're at my place. You can make the rest of your classes."
She spit. "No thanks. We need to tell Giles and Buffy."
"We'll do that," he agreed. "Then I'll call Blair with my fat lip from her fist." He opened the door, letting her out. "To the car, Batgirl." She strolled that way, sliding into her sunglasses on the way. He called the Magic Box. "It's us. We're going to need a short family meeting. On our way now, Giles." He hung up, opening the door with the remote and getting in to drive. He buckled up, she buckled up, and he started the car, backing them out and to the store Giles ran. When they got there she jogged in, heading for the bathroom. He locked the car and strolled in, looking at Giles and Buffy, Anya and Spike were in the office doorway where it was shady and they had the coffee/tea maker. "After a lot of talking and thinking, I'm moving to Cascade," he said, looking at Buffy, who nodded, looking down. "With Dawn." She glared at him. "Buffy, she was attacked last night," he said. He sat down across from her. "I've talked with Blair and his boss Simon, who has a teenager about her age. Our educational system sucks so much she'll be held back a year any other place but Sunnydale. Us being up there would get her off the hellmouth. She could be a girl, not the slayer's sister."
"The house?" she asked.
Dawn came out with a soda for them. "You can live there until you die or I go to college. Whenever one of those happens we'll sell it," she told her. She sat down. "I want to move, Buffy. I'd like to be *safe*. Blair's teaching me to cook. Simon and Jim are kinda uptight but Simon took me to church with his son and ex-wife. He helped Xander when I was acting out because the slaying got in the way." She took her hand to hold. "I can have a *life*, Buffy. One that doesn't have slay and repeat at the end of every day."
She nodded. "It's a good decision," she agreed, looking at Xander. "Where are you two staying?"
"I've got a job starting in three weeks," he admitted. "I'll be shift lead on my new site." She smiled a bit at that. "It's more than enough to get us an apartment. If I have to I can sell my car and use the money to set us up. Buff, we love you, but Dawn needs her own life, not to be in danger from yours. We've all seen too much combat, especially me and her. She needs someone to focus on her like your mother did. This would let you heal and grieve too, and you could still come up to visit. I'm sure we'll have a couch."
Buffy smiled and nodded. "I like that idea but we can sell the house, Dawnie. It's too much for me to deal with. Mom was right about that. There's all sorts of stuff to deal with when you have a house. Insurance, taxes, mowing, all sorts of evil stuff." Dawn smiled at that. "Giles, can we work on selling it and finding me an apartment?"
"There's one upstairs, Buffy. You're welcome to it," he promised, smiling at them. "I do agree it's a wise choice, children. Cascade is much safer and you could take the dratted albino with you." Xander smiled and Dawn giggled. "I'll make the arrangements so you can move up there more smoothly. It's nothing compared to moving across an ocean with priceless tomes of knowledge." He smiled at Anya and Spike. "Of course they'll miss you." Anya was making small whimpering noises. "You can find a new boyfriend. One who won't have to live in his shadow."
"No! He's mine!" Anya demanded. "He has to stay with me! I can't get orgasms the same way and who'll take care of me when I'm ancient at thirty?"
"That's the point of finding a better boyfriend who makes a better salary," Xander said dryly. "Besides, we are broken up, Ahn. Maybe you and Spike since you cheated on me with him?" Spike gave him an odd look but shook his head, heading in to finish warming up his blood in the coffee maker.
Dawn looked at Buffy. "So I'll be gone in a few weeks. Then you can party and find a boyfriend who's not Spike and Riley. One who likes you being a girl and pretty."
"I remember liking being a pretty girl," she admitted. She looked at Giles, who smiled and nodded. "Okay. Giles, can we arrange the selling stuff today?"
"I can talk to someone and arrange for storage space," he promised. "Dawn, shouldn't you be in school?"
"We had to visit the evil social worker who thinks Mom wouldn't have liked Willow being gay and Xander and Blair being cuddly," she said.
"Are your grades that bad?" Giles asked.
"No, when I talked to the person at the school board up there with Blair they asked me what I was studying. Which is what people up there do in seventh grade instead of eighth. So I'll be held back but I'll be the prettiest in my class because of the age gap."
"We already knew Sunnydale wasn't in the business of schooling children for the education," Buffy said grimly. "More to give the kids something to do until they got old enough to be eaten." She smiled at her sister. "I can even help you pack and do a bit of last minute shopping so you won't have to for a few weeks."
"They'll be having winter up there soon," Xander told her. "I doubt she can get much snow stuff down here next to the desert."
"We'll have to see or I'll go up with you and take her shopping up there," Buffy said firmly. "I could use something if I'm going to go back to being a pretty girl."
Dawn hugged her. "Yes you could. As long as you don't steal my clothes." She kissed her on the cheek. "Going to goof off. Have a good talk with Blair, Xander." She bounced off, going to look up what one wore during winter. She'd never been in snow. She had no idea. Especially not how to do it and make it look cute and hot.
Xander smiled at her. "I do have to call Blair. I'll let you help the heaving one there," he said quietly, exiting before Anya could pounce him and demand sex or to take her with them. Jim would be driven nuts by her and Simon would have to pull out a long lecture. One that would make even his son shake in fear. Then again, Anya was a good show and tell about dating bad girls.... No, that was mean to Simon. And Blair's mother since Jim had suggested Naomi could talk to her about being a normal, non-violent girl.
Tony read his newest email, smirking at Gibbs. "Xander's moving with Dawn to Cascade in a few weeks, boss," he said happily.
"Does that mean he'll have sanity?"
"Maybe," Tony offered. "Maybe not. He did send a message to Abby saying that Dawn needed help picking out a winter wardrobe. She has no idea how to look cute as a snow bunny." Gibbs shook his head, sighing a bit. "It could be worse."
"Dawn could have her own pet Homer."
Gibbs looked at him. "With where she lives? I'm surprised she doesn't, DiNozzo."
Tony typed that in. Then he giggled. "Xander said don't encourage her. She wants to claim Spike as a pet." Gibbs moaned. "Yeah so they're getting out of there just in time. Vorchain's helping them move stuff since he's still out there. Dawn's probably still cooing at his cub."
"Cub?" McGee asked.
"He's got a thing about having a cub of some sort," Tony told him, typing something in. "Right now he's got a serval named Scruffy. She's got a cute ruff according to him." Gibbs moaned again. "Boss, need the antacids?"
"Please." Tony tossed over his bottle and caught it when it was tossed back. "According to the journal, his first one was a leopard named Spot."
"And a wolf named Furry," Tony reminded him.
McGee just nodded. "My sister used to have a hamster named Hampy."
"Ancelin named her stallion Horse in Greek to piss her father off." Gibbs shot him a look. "She did. They ended up gelding her stallion after it nearly knocked a prince out of his saddle to get his mare."
"Yes she was definitely your relative," McGee said dryly, getting back to his report. Homer showed up, growling and grumbling but holding up a note. "Thank you, Homer." He gave him chocolate and he disappeared to get sick in private. He looked at it then got up to give it to Ziva. "From Abby," he said when he found her coming back from the bathroom.
"Thank you." She read it and groaned, going jogging up the stairs to find the director and warn her. She breezed in, smiling at the secretary, pointing. "She's free, right?"
"No," she said after her.
Ziva walked in and smiled, handing her boss the note. "From Abby."
She read it and blanched. "Thank you for the warning."
"She sent Homer with it."
"Better you than me." She shredded it. "You know Agent Fornell, right?"
"I haven't met him yet but I've heard of him," she said, shaking his hand. "A new case?"
"No," he said. "Confirming some rumors we've been hearing."
"Ah. Well I hope it's nothing too bad." Tony jogged in and closed the door, leaning on it. "Bad?"
"The president's limo just pulled into the parking garage, Director." She got up and went to freshen up while Fornell adjusted his tie. "Ziva, hide. Go hide with Ducky." She nodded, going to do that. Tony walked out. "Impressive people coming," he yelled from the walkway. "The Prez's limo just pulled into the parking garage!" Everyone went to freshen up or adjusted their clothes. He went back down to his desk, looking at Gibbs. "I had Ziva hide with Ducky since she's in jeans and a t-shirt."
"What was the note, McGee?" he asked.
"Vampires in the White House basement, boss. Homer found one and popped him back. Abby staked him."
"Thank you." He got up and stole another antacid, taking it on his way back to his desk. The Vice President stomped in. "Sir."
"Gibbs." He glared at Tony. "We'll be talking. Now."
Tony looked at him. "What did I do this time?" He got up and followed him up to the office, shrugging at Gibbs' dirty look. He had no idea. The VP stormed into the office and Tony casually strolled in afterward. "I was told to attend," he said when Fornell opened his mouth. "Gibbs is downstairs, about to make a coffee run."
"I should help him with that," he agreed, escaping.
Tony closed the door when he was glared at. "I've been a good boy all week, sir."
"Two things have come to our attention, Special Agent DiNozzo. You were exposed to the plague?"
"That's a fairly well-known fact," he agreed. "It got sent here. It was Y. Pestis. I lived. Gibbs threatened me if I didn't."
"We'll be taking your blood."
"No, you won't," he told him.
The Vice President glared. "Yes, we will be. Or else you will be in jail and we'll do it anyway."
"Beyond that being illegal, you can't make a new serum and the new antidote won't work on others unless it's the same strain, sir. I've already talked to my doctor about that while I was healing. We were all cautious on that point. He drew some to make sure it couldn't be cooked down. There's a report in my file stating that." He sat down at the conference table, looking at him. "He even had some people at the CDC make sure it couldn't be cooked down, that way I wouldn't have to be put on a suicide patch system in case I got captured again." The Director gaped. He shrugged. "I wasn't going to let someone get me and my blood if there was any chance it could be cooked down to make a new disease serum, Director. Actually it was suggested I put one on anyway, just in case someone tried."
"Our specialists say we can, boy."
"Sir, my specialist won a Nobel Prize for fighting biodiseases," Tony said patiently. "I'm going to take his word over anyone else's. By the way, I do have it implanted." He gave him a horrified look. "So should anyone try, they're going to be in deep shit. Now, the second point you wanted to see me about was?"
"Which cousin? I have a few," Tony admitted. "Mostly past the fifth cousin boundary line but I have a good number."
"The one in Italy."
Tony nodded. "I know about him. I studied with him for a few summers."
"How did you get that building?" he sneered.
"My parents died when my father stabbed my mother and then killed himself. The judge let me have everything as long as I paid off all the mistresses." The VP growled at that. "I can get you a copy of the transcripts if you want, sir. That is how I bought my current residence. I had to move some family heirlooms from both the former tower in Italy and the house on Long Island. I have quite an impressive library of family journals. Why is that a concern? I know my cousin and his family have worked with certain organizations to help promote tolerance. My cousin himself helped in the battles against Mussolini in his youth."
"Your cousin was considered a dangerous man in intelligence circles."
"I don't know why. He was a very nice man unless you fucked with him," Tony said bluntly. He stood up again. "Since his cancer has come back for the fourth time and is now spreading and slowly taking his life, I'm now considered the head of that branch of the family.
"I know that," he sneered. "I want his intelligence files."
"He didn't keep files. He helped those who came to him when they needed it. You can ask the director, Sir. She met him at least once."
"Twice actually. He was never involved in intelligence work but more in the keeping some things safe. There's a number of ancient Roman artifacts in the family I believe?"
Tony nodded. "Including journals going back that far. I've been brushing up on my Latin so I could read them too." He looked at the Vice President. "I'm sorry you were misled, sir, but there are no intelligence files. The family has kept journals of those we've had to help but otherwise no files."
"Then I want his journal."
"I'll make copies of it for you. I'm not letting family heirlooms out if there's no reason to. A copy should be good enough to start with," he said at the renewing sneer. "Gibbs has read it, you can ask him if there's anything in there." He pointed at the phone. "I can call him if you want."
"I want it tonight, DiNozzo."
Tony looked at him then smiled. "Sir, I don't truly care who or what misled you, but I'm the inheritor of the tower," he said with a smirk back. "In all manners of the word." He stepped back, giving him a horrified look. "You can have a copy. Whoever put you up to this? They can read the copy. There wasn't much in there. Lamenting his loss of his lady when he was younger, and then the cancer. A few times he's helped others. He did mention a redhead he wanted to spank in Prague?" The director gave him a look. "Apparently you pissed him off, ma'am." He looked at the Vice President again. "I'm not my father, sir. You can't threaten me into doing things. I have Gibbs on my six all day. He is scarier than you and Gitmo." He walked out, going down to his desk. "Do you have my cousin's journal, boss?"
"The VP wants a copy. Someone told him my cousin kept intelligence files." He took it, looking at the part Gibbs pointed out. "No, that's the work journal. Different things. Thanks for the warning though. Oh, he wanted to take blood too." He walked it back upstairs, handing it to Cynthia well within sight. "Please copy that for the VP, Cynthia?" She nodded. "You can make two if you want for the director as well." She nodded, going to do that once she had finished pouring coffee. He looked at her. "That way you can read what he thought about you, Director." He looked at the Vice President. "Is there anything else, sir? If not, I'm working on my report for a recent homicide case." The director motioned him to go so he left. Cynthia brought him back the journal and then jogged back up the stairs. "Thank you." She smiled at him before disappearing into the office. Tony got back to work on his report, giving Gibbs a look. "I told him about the report and the patch, boss," he said quietly.
"Good idea. Any other problems?"
"Someone thinks they can still dilute it down."
"I trust the people Doctor Pitt sent your file and bloodwork to. They were CDC and Nobel Prizing winning chemists in defeating biological warfare. They said they couldn't even make an antidote from you."
"Good." He got back to work, spell checking his report. "Hey, boss, was it 'ie' or 'ei'?"
He looked. "Ei." Tony nodded and did a mas search and replace then went over it again with the spell checker. He got it a few minutes later and Tony pulled up something else to work on. The Vice President stomped down the stairs, pausing to glare at Tony. "Sir, even if they could, my senior agent has taken steps so *no* one can get his blood to try. As is proper in this paranoid age." He looked at him. Then Homer showed up, handing him a note. He looked at it and handed it to McGee. "She's mad you fed him more chocolate."
"Oops," he said dryly. "Sorry, Homer." He patted him, taking off his cap to do it. The VP looked alarmed, moving away. "This is our lab tech's pet, sir. His name is Homer."
"He's an imp," he said angrily.
Tony looked over. "Yeah, he is. She adopted him when we had the surge. Called him back when he disappeared too. She's got him his shots and clothes." He tossed over something. "Soy chocolate. He should be able to eat that until he explodes." Homer nibbled and growled, coming over to get into his desk. He popped him on the head. "Do not make me tell Abby," he warned. The imp cowered, giving him adoring looks. So he handed him the bag. "Give it to Abby. She'll give you some more. Take your cap back too." Homer did that and disappeared. His desk phone rang. "It's soy chocolate, Abby. It won't make him sick." He hung up, looking at him, smirking some. "Think my cousin would approve, sir?" He walked off shuddering. He went back to his email, letting the mailing list of the Sorthes know what had happened. Just in case.
"Who are you telling?" the director said from the stairs behind him.
"The extended family." He smirked at her. "Homer can eat soy chocolate all he wants apparently."
"Charming. I'd rather she not have Homer in the office, DiNozzo."
"He makes her happy. Her being happy gets our samples processed faster," Gibbs pointed out. The imp came back and gave him a hug then left again. He shook his head. "McGee, tell he to log out of the security system."
"Doing it, boss." He typed that in. "She's watching the VP talk to the demon in his back seat."
Tony looked at Gibbs. "Is it my duty?"
"Not yet," he admitted.
"I'm having the building reblessed," the director complained. Tony handed over a copy of a form. "I do see his name. Thank you for reminding me, Tony." She went back to her office then she came back down. "You are wearing a patch?" He moved his shirt to show the scar. "Thank you. Is that report in your file?" He nodded, adjusting his clothes. "Opiate?"
"Opiate and something that'll thicken it to tar."
"Even better." She went back up to her office to make some calls. Plus to cast a blessing on the car, banishing the demon from her building. She was not going to allow that. Homer showed up with a file, making her smirk at it. "Thank you, Homer." He gave her a begging look. "I'll buy some tonight." He lapped most of his face with his tongue before disappearing. She shook her head, watching the security cameras as the VP's limo stormed off again. That was going to get a bit messy but she'd endure that problem too. After all, it wasn't just her brains that had gotten her this job.
Tony smiled at his girlfriend when she came over. "Hey." He kissed her. "What's up?"
"Nothing much. Doctor Pitt had a visitor today."
"I had one too. He left very pissed with me because he had been misled. Apparently it's my fault they can't get the plague from my blood."
She stroked over his chest. "I think it's a good thing."
He smiled. "Me too." He kissed her again. "So, are we done thinking?"
"No," she admitted. Homer popped in and she squeaked. "What are you doing with one of those!"
"He's Abby's Homer." He looked at him. "No note?" The imp crawled in his lap to lick him. "I don't have any here. I gave you the only stuff I had. Go ask Abby to buy you some." He whimpered. Tony moaned. "Homer!" He got a pitiful look and the imp played with his buttons, looking down like his mistress did when he was upset with her. He patted him on the back. "We'll go buy you some in an hour. Come back then. Now shoo before she finds a broom." The imp left. He looked at her. "He can eat soy chocolate."
"You're going to make him sick."
"He's not allergic to the soy stuff. Not that I don't think it's a sacrilege but he likes it." He smiled and got onto his phone to find the number he wanted, texting it to them. "There. That's ordered and some beer. I'm out." He kissed her again. "Ready to talk?"
"I'd like to talk." Someone came off the elevator, stomping in. "Hi."
"What's wrong, Horatio?"
"We had a spirit messenger just show up tonight. He's a former friend."
"Is that because he'd get the point across better and easier?" Tony asked. Horatio nodded. "Do you want him to hang around or banish him so the others don't feel so bad?"
Horatio looked at him. "I don't know. They're not out back."
"Daedalus!" he yelled. He floated in, looking concerned. "Horatio got sent a former friend as a spirit messenger. He needs you to talk to him and to help him with whatever he needs to either keep him around or let him move on. Please?"
"Of course, Horatio." He gave him a gentle smile. "I was checking on something. Apparently I missed a line of mine when I was out wenching around. I found a son of my line who looks almost exactly like me and one who looks almost exactly like my nephew Volka did." He patted him on the cheek. "Come out to the tomb. Thank you, Tony."
"Welcome. Oh, let it be spread around that imps aren't allergic to soy chocolate? Homer's been begging since I introduced him to them."
Daedalus shook his head, sighing a bit. "I'll let the others know." He led Horatio out, talking with him about his friend and what had happened.
Tony went to get his delivery when they texted they were there, coming back with it. Homer was already drooling and trying to cuddle Jeanne. "Get off her or no treats." Homer got off her and hugged him, taking a few pieces with him. He sat down, handing her a beer. "You look like you could use it."
"Maybe soy's addictive to their kind."
"I don't know," he admitted, opening his own beer to sip. "I consider them foul so maybe that's why they like them." He smiled at her. "Shift closer. We'll talk or watch a movie?" She nodded, cuddling next to him while he put on a movie she liked. It was nice of him and it let her relax until they were ready to talk.
Tony walked in the next morning. "Well, I have offers to use her womb but she doesn't like the new life I'm leading," he announced, dropping his book bag. "But she'll gladly bear me a son to carry on the family name." He looked at his boss. "Before you say it, yes I'm still working on her."
"I wish you luck," Gibbs told him. "If not, Buffy's single."
Tony looked at him then burst out laughing. "Good one, boss! Good coffee this morning?" He sat down, logging into his email until three Secret Service guards came off the elevator. "Yay me," he muttered when they spotted him. "Yes, gentlemen? What can I clarify for you from yesterday's threats?"
The one in the front looked down at him then put down the copy of the journal. "Three things, Special Agent DiNozzo. For security purposes we need to check your suicide patch." Tony nodded. "We need to have a copy of a list you have in your possession. We also need to know the details of who told you it could not be siphoned out."
"That last one's in the incident's record," he said patiently. "Doctor Pitt handled it and out-sourced it to people he trusted."
"We can look that up while we look over the patch for you, sir," one of the ones in the back said. "Would you want to do it in the bathroom, the lab, or the morgue?"
"The morgue. Ducky has the diagram in case he has to undo me for an emergency."
"One wire was removed a few months back when he was shot in the shoulder," Gibbs told them. "It should have been reconnected. The doctor said they did." That got a nod. "It was done at Bethesda." That got another nod and he followed them down there to make sure his agent didn't disappear suddenly. The director brought down a copy of a list of names, getting a nod from Tony and one of them taking it to copy on Ducky's copier.
Ducky came in, smiling at them. "Good morning, gentlemen. And you as well, Director. What's going on?"
"They need to check the suicide patch, Duck," Gibbs told him.
"Of course." He took off his coat and hat, putting them down before coming over. He pulled on some gloves and let Tony take off his own shirt. "It was implanted there. The line runs into the inferior vena cava right before the heart muscle. Let me get you the plans." He found them in the filing cabinet and handed them over. He pointed. "This one wire had to be removed when he was shot but it was supposedly soldered back in place before he was closed up again. We can do a check on it if you desire."
"We'd like that, sir. It is in the interest of national security that he not fall into the wrong hands, even if they don't think they can get a new batch of serum from him," the one in the lead said. Ducky went to prepare the ultrasound, bringing it over, letting Gibbs help Tony lay down. He went over the area. "Is it connected?"
"One's a bit loose it looks like," Ducky told them. "It should still work."
"I'd give it a try but I don't feel like having my blood turn to cement today," Tony said dryly.
"I can easily disconnect that part, Anthony, but not the opiate."
"We're clear for the day and you can monitor him here?" Gibbs asked.
"I can and have in the past, Jethro, as I have you." He looked at Tony. "Let me get a bit of local." He went to find his living people kit, bringing it back to work on Tony's patch and remove the blood thickener. "Ah, there were are. All removed. Now, set it off please, Anthony." Tony sighed and grabbed onto the table before doing something with his feet. It was set off and he went limp, smiling a goofy grin. "It does appear to work rather well. I'll have to reload it later of course." He looked at the agents. A slim plastic bag was handed over. "A new style?" That got a nod. "I'm not qualified to put it in."
"It should hitch into the existing lines," the agent in back offered, looking up from his reading. "Or we can take him to Bethesda to make sure, Doctor Mallard."
"I would feel more comfortable than doing that here. I'm not really set up as a surgical theater."
"Agreed," the one in the lead said, looking at him. "Conclusive?"
"They tried, they could not get more than a very weak sample from nearly a pint of blood. It didn't even infect the test mouse." He closed the file and smirked at Gibbs. "Good idea."
"He asked," he said bluntly. "I didn't know about it until he got shot."
"Even better, Special Agent Gibbs. It's safer in case the agency has a leak." He called someone. "It's Patricks. I'm in Doctor Mallard's morgue. We need to replace a suicide patch on someone. Come pick us up ASAP." He hung up. "You can come along as well, Gibbs."
"Yes, I am." He looked over as paramedics came in. "Director?"
"Go. I'll tell the others, Jethro." He nodded, following Tony out. She stopped the lead agent. "Why the interest?"
"Someone wanted a pure sample to spread in the Middle East, ma'am. That's all I know. It's good they can't but we want to keep them from even trying." He left, going out after Ducky. He had Tony's medical records and they'd need them.
Tony woke up, looking at his girlfriend. "Hi," he said tiredly. "Why am I here?"
"They decided to replace whatever appliance it was with a new one. They wouldn't tell me more. Is it a pacemaker?"
"Monitor on my blood in case a bout of the flu brings back the plague."
"Ah. Well, better than nothing." She gave him a kiss, smiling at him. "Gibbs is mugging the coffee pot. You'll be released tomorrow. Your phone rang three times, all three of them Gibbs got for you and wouldn't tell me anything so I'm guessing it's *family* related." Gibbs walked in. "He's awake."
"Good. About time." He handed Tony a smaller cup of coffee.
"He probably shouldn't have that."
Gibbs snorted and looked at her. "It's fine." He sipped his. Tony looked at the phone then at him. "Danny. Wanted to know the ethics of something."
"No. Helpful in some ways. Might freak someone out. He and Ancelin have been talking and getting chummy." He took another drink and Tony shook his head. "She's lonely."
"She is," he agreed. "I wouldn't say anything if he does." He finished his coffee and put his bed more upright, looking at her, getting a smile back. "Let him brief me?" She nodded, leaving them alone. "Did he decide to let her possess him?"
"Yup. I told him to talk to Don and Ryan." He finished his coffee, siting down. "It's stronger, the key's still in the same spot. They tested it before they inserted the drugs," he said quietly. "The cement is also stronger. Should be fully out within a minute and a half." Tony nodded at that. "It's a brave yet stupid things, DiNozzo."
"It's this or someone gets a wild hair up their ass, boss. As proven yesterday."
"Point. Better this than an execution too. You feel okay?"
"I feel normal. A bit sore. How long am I riding my desk?"
"A week for the incision to heal. A few days before you can come back." Jeanne came back. "We're done. They did tell you no wild sex for a week?" She nodded, smirking at him. "Making sure he can still work. McGee hates doing his paperwork." He looked at Tony. "Get better soon, DiNozzo. I'll expect you back in four days." He left, going back to work.
Tony smiled and took her hand to kiss. "It's all right."
"If you're sure." She snuggled up next to him, giving him a cuddle. He couldn't complain this time. He had been through major surgery.
Danny smiled at Don, letting him into his apartment. "Hey." He closed and locked the door, looking at his buddy. "Couch? Beer?"
"Beer's nice," he agreed, going to get one. Then he went to sit down. He smiled at the ghost. "Hey, Ancelin. Something big?"
She shifted closer to him, giving him a hug. "I want to try something," she said, giving him a look. He blinked. "You've been having dreams."
"Many of them," he agreed. "I have for years. Not that I ever talked about them but now and then I'd get a mediaeval dream of riding around or sword fighting with someone. Later on of screwing a few different people or going to taverns to visit the working girls when I hit puberty." He took a sip.
"The boys did so love to wench around," she sighed, shaking her head. "At least they didn't after we wed." She stroked his cheek. "Don...."
"She wants to possess me, Don," Danny told him. He flopped down. "That way she can feel someone touching her again. Since both'a her men are long gone and reborn.... She's lonely basically."
"Which I can totally understand," he agreed. He suddenly caught the clue and nodded. "Ah, why I'm here and not just anyone."
"Well I did vow that I'd only let my husbands touch me," she admitted. "Grandmother would be very pissed at me and find some way to make sure I knew that." Don laughed, putting down his beer before he spilled it or choked. "I wasn't a bad girl by any means, even if I did ask a tavern wench once why men went to visit their kind."
"It could make things awkward between Danny and me," Don pointed out gently.
Danny snorted. "Not really, Don. If your guest and my guest get it on, we'll both get good naps tonight."
Don gave him a look. "You have tomorrow off? From what I've seen you'll need it."
She giggled. "He was a bit active in bed," she agreed. "Always pouncing. I used to tease him that's where my stallion learned it from."
Danny smirked, shrugging a bit. "Been a while but I've been there before," he assured her. He looked at Don. "It's not a problem with me. I can't even imagine not being able to feel anyone touching me for centuries. Or even more than a few days. No getting jammed against someone on the subway or the street."
"Blackmailing is wrong," Don interrupted before he could try to guilt him into it. He gave Danny a look. "You could've just asked if I wanted to stay over."
He smirked. "I'm doing good deeds for the year."
"Aren't you already on the positive side with the job and all? I know I am." He finished his beer and stood up, getting out of his jacket. "That way I don't ruin it." She beamed and floated over to Danny, sliding into his body. He stiffened then relaxed, and he smiled. "Anny?"
She got up and kissed him, making him moan. The look in his eyes changed, making her happy. "Volka."
"Brattling," he teased, stroking her borrowed cheek. "He's cute."
"He's Vorchain's grandson," she teased, kissing him. "A blond like I am." He kissed her again, making her moan and relax against him. She undid his shirt for him, making him moan when her hands roamed over his chest. "I missed you two."
"We missed you too, Ancelin." He kissed her around, then looked around. "The couch like old times?" She led him into the bedroom, letting him pounce her. She had to help him with the unfamiliar zipper but that was fine with him. It got her closer to where they both wanted her to be. Her body wasn't exactly the same but it felt so good and he could see her. His current body was very forceful and strong, he was going to have a lot of fun with her before he got tired. Her host's body was going to be very sore. He prepared her body for his entry, making her wiggle and squeal. "See, didn't lose any skills," he teased, pushing in slowly, making her arch up and whimper in need. He held her close, riding her gently, slowly, making her sob from pleasure. He wrapped his arms under her shoulders, holding her shoulders with his hands so she wasn't scooting back away from him. He felt her come. "Pretty," he whispered in her ear, going back to it. "Mine?"
"Still yours. Always yours, Volka."
"Good girl. Now, where's my other wife?"
"Miami. His name's Ryan. Looks almost exactly like our Chauvis. A bit thinner but confused now and then." She stroked his cheek. "I do love you."
"I love you too." He kissed her, making her squeal when he thrust in harder. "Still mine." He got back to work, making her squeal, writhe, and demand more. His duchess was one demanding wench when you got her started. She finally came again and he let himself go, holding her for now. She snuggled into his arms. The body had other ideas so she took it over more firmly for now. "Some men cannot be held," he offered gently.
"Just for a while longer," she begged.
"Shh. We'll be back together after this life. I know we will be."
"I had the ban removed," she said, making him beam. "He'll be ours again." He growled, kissing her, pleasing her and her body until she groaned and went limp an hour later. She lost hold of Danny's body, floating out.
Volka smiled at her. "Not like I minded, my duchess. Call me back." She nodded, adjusting the covers so they could nap. He faded back, leaving them as Danny and Don, one who would not cuddle and the other who was going to use him as a body pillow even if he didn't like it. It was so cute and she smiled, going to let the other spirits comfort her. For a single night it had been hers again. She'd get them back soon.
Danny woke up in the morning, groaning a bit. "Flack, you're built like a phone pole," he complained.
Don looked at him and nodded. "I knew that." He kissed him. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, but I'm definitely hoping I don't have ta sit tonight." He took another kiss. "You good?"
"I'm good. Have been good." He gave him a squeeze. "Thank you."
"Eeh. Not a problem." He got up with some help from Don, going to shower. He came out and found Don in the kitchen. "Don't you have to run home and change?"
"I've got a spare suit in my locker." He handed over the cup of coffee, getting a smile. "I'll shower there."
"You can shower here. I don't mind."
"Not a whole lot of time to do that," Don said sheepishly.
Danny hit him on the arm. "C'mon. We'll head now. I can get breakfast from the cart." Don grinned, following him down so Don could drive them in. It was a pretty day and it was hopefully going to be an easy one for them. Don was walking like his thighs were sore and Danny could not sit comfortably. "Did you make a wish or somethin' to be that big?" he complained when he couldn't find a comfortable spot.
"Family trait," he said happily. "I'm tall and skinny, that part of me should be too."
"It wasn't skinny."
Don smirked proudly. "Thank you." He pulled into traffic, heading for work.
Mac gave them an odd look when they walked in together. Danny was nibbling something from the food cart outside. Don was wearing the same clothes as yesterday but he was heading to change. Danny went into the break room to get a drink so he followed him. He was walking a bit oddly. "Danny, you okay? Throw your back?"
Danny looked at him. "I know it's been a while since you've had sex, Mac." Mac went bright red. "I'm a bit sore but I'll live and work through it. Thanks for askin' though." He ate another bite of his sausage and cheese dog, chewing slowly while he watched Mac's face go back to its normal color.
Stella walked in happy and smiling. "Good morning. It's another day of hell with murderers, psychopaths, and other evil folk."
"You put such a happy spin on that," Danny teased.
"Of course. Otherwise I'd go nuts." She stared at him and how he was leaning. "Was he good?" she asked. He nodded, finishing his breakfast. "Share the details?" she teased.
"Aw, come on!"
"Should we pull blood work?" she asked.
"Nope. Was special stuff." He kissed her on the cheek as he walked past her. "Have a better day, Stella. Not like I share my smut any other time."
She sighed. "I wonder what happened." She finished making her coffee and took a sip. "Morning, Mac."
"Morning, Stella." He looked at her. "Why do you think he was with a guy?"
"Mac, he couldn't stand without his legs being a bit apart. He's walking like he took it up the butt, and he clearly wasn't able to sit. Danny had anal sex and apparently it was too good to share this time." She took a drink and smiled, walking out, running into Don. "Hey. How was your night?"
"Interesting." She blinked then gaped. "Tell you later."
"Good! Danny didn't. All he said was that it was special."
He smirked, walking her out of the way to give her the bare details so she wouldn't keep pushing them for it. She made you want to confess to her. It made her pretty good in interrogation. She cooed at the romantic notion and went to hug Danny but it was fine with her. Mac could wonder later on.
Horatio walked into his house that Monday night, finding his spirit was back. "Again?"
"Yeah, they decided everyone nagging me is my hell." He floated closer. "Could be worse I guess."
"Only if Alexx finds out how to make you stick in one spot, without books, forever so she can nag you?" Horatio asked.
"Or you, or Eric, or Calleigh," he admitted dryly, floating over to settle on the couch. "Apparently I'm your team's new mascot."
"I should tell the others."
"I got sent to Eric's mother first. I'm sure he knows by now."
"We can make sure of it," Horatio ordered, staring him down. He paged the others, getting phone calls. "We apparently have been given a spiritual mascot. Yes, Ryan, like that," he agreed. "Home." He hung up, going to unlock the door for the rest of the team to show up. Ryan got there first, staring at Speed. "He's back."
"I can see that. Did Daedalus help any?"
"He did give me a few things to think about and how to capture or banish better." Speed glared at him. "I haven't decided which yet."
Ryan got out of the way when he heard the others pull in, hiding behind Horatio when Eric came in and saw Speed, then started to swear. Even Speed floated away from him. Calleigh came in and growled, following Eric so she could get in her own blows. Alexx came in and smiled at Ryan. "I'm hiding." He pointed. "He got sent as a messenger."
"Again, baby?" she demanded.
He nodded. "Permanent assignment, Alexx."
"Good, then we can all beat your ass," Calleigh told him. Eric got away from her. It wasn't often she swore but when she did, you ducked. "Horatio or someone, stick him in place!" she demanded. "I want to beat the snot out of him."
"You can't physically hit him," Ryan offered, still hiding behind Horatio. "But he might be able to stick him in place."
Horatio came over to draw a diagram on the floor around Speed with a piece of chalk, sticking him in the capturing circle. "There. All yours. I'll yell at him later." He gave Speed a look.
"I know, I was told this was my hell." He scowled at Calleigh. "I did try."
"I cleaned it a month before then."
She growled and he tried to duck but the circle kept him in place. "That will not save you, Timothy Speedle!" She got into the circle with him, going to try to beat him anyway. It'd make her feel better.
Eric looked at Ryan, who was now behind Alexx. "We won't shoot you, Wolfe."
"Thanks. I feel rotten enough as is." He looked in the kitchen. "Anyone want some water? I'm staying out of this one."
"Please," Horatio agreed, letting Ryan get him a bottle of water. "Disappear if you want," he ordered quietly. Ryan nodded, heading out to deal with other things. Horatio opened his water, taking a sip, smiling when Alexx patted him on the arm. "I know but he's too scared of Calleigh's temper and this doesn't really concern him."
Calleigh smiled. "Why would he be scared of me?"
"Because you're a scary woman," Speed assured her. "H, please? Not like I didn't try."
"Not very well," he told him, going to sit down with one of his forensic journals while the other three got to talk to his house guest. He agreed with Ryan, let Calleigh get the scary tendencies out of the way first. Then he could have Speed to rant at. He answered the phone when it rang. "Horatio." He listened, then smiled. "No, Xander, I don't have much experience in the scary gay boy thoughts. Especially not ones that come with strange Roman dreams of being a wine boy." He listened to him. "Xander, do what feels right to you. I'm sure you and Blair won't ruin what you're building. Neither of you are like that and it'll be fine." He nodded once while listening. "Then it sounds like it may be destined but it doesn't mean you have to jump in today." He listened to him complain about the desire getting worse. "Xander, calm down. Call Blair and see what happens. Don't push it. Let it happen if it does, Xander. If you two end up having phone sex then you do. If you don't then you don't and you can live with funny dreams. It's always better than combat dreams, right?" He smirked. "That'll be fine. No, it's not a problem I've ever had, Xander. You might talk to Tony or Mac. Or Don. I think he might've had them since he's in the same reborn boat you are and he had Ancelin and Chauvis at one point in time." He smiled. "Exactly. I know you'll work it out. Quit stressing over it; quit worrying it to death in your mind. If it happens it does. Don't expect or push. Good boy. Call if you need more advice. Have a good move, Xander." He smiled as he hung up.
"Wine boy?" Eric asked.
"Long story," Horatio said, going back to his reading. "I'll yell at him when you're done."
Eric looked at Speed, looking confused. "Wine boys too?"
Speed shrugged. "Not since Roman times. I got the quick primer on the group so I can help Ancelin. Is Buffy still covering her ears and walking off humming at the first mention of gay kissing?" he asked Horatio, who smirked but nodded, turning the page. "She'll get over it. Dawn might want to watch but she'll get over it too."
Alexx frowned. "I want more explanation than that, Speedy."
He shrugged. "It's not my family. Ask Wolfe!" Horatio snickered. "Or him. Xander makes him strange."
Horatio looked at him. "Not really." He went back to his reading. "Tony drew us into the strange things."
"Uh-huh. Who was it that leant Xander his camera so he could take the picture of the unnaturally huge breasts?" Eric teased.
"He said he needed proof, Eric. If I hadn't he would've tried to date her and bring her home. It would've caused more problems when she tried to kill him. Like his last one has." He turned the page again, glancing over the new article.
Alexx felt his forehead. "Are you feeling all right?"
"I'm fine." He smiled at her. "Really I am."
"Is this the same one that made Yelina grin?" Calleigh demanded. Horatio nodded.
"Then we should meet the boy," Alexx said firmly.
"It was a weekend fling, Alexx," Horatio said patiently. "Not that he won't come back if she asks but she knew it was a weekend fling."
"Sometimes those can be nice," Eric agreed. Both women smacked him on the arm and Speed snickered. "You're still in trouble." Calleigh went back to yelling at him, while Eric patiently waited his turn and figured out which thing he wanted to yell at his former friend. Thoughts of Xander were going to make his head hurt and he didn't need that tonight. He had a date.
Xander looked across the table at Blair, giving him a shy smile. "I talked to Horatio."
"How's he doing?"
"He sounded a bit distracted and he had people over. One of them was snapping at someone named Speed in the background."
"Hmm. I thought he was the one Horatio had lost from his team," he said thoughtfully.
"So they got assigned an Ancelin of their own?" Xander suggested.
"Could be." He smiled at his friend. "What's with the dinner request tonight?" he asked gently.
"More strange dreams," he said sheepishly. "I feel like a baby running to you when I have them."
"If they're about me it's better you run to me than hide them from me," Blair pointed out. Xander nodded, blushing now. He patted his hand, giving it a squeeze to make Xander look at him. "It's all right, Xander. It may be a natural part of the progression of our friendship. Who knows." Xander gave him a smile. "Good boy. Now, eat. Dawn's helping Jim set up for poker night. We're going to test your hunting instincts on Jim's command. He said you have to do the sensory tests too since he thinks you have some of the same gifts."
"Not really. Not for the same reasons," Xander pointed out.
"I know but we should still find out the limits of it." Xander nodded, digging into his taco salad to finish up. Blair smiled, going back to his meal, not even realizing he was still holding Xander's hand until he needed it to sip his soda. Then he gave him a small shy grin. "Sorry."
"I'm not. That's what Horatio said earlier. Let it happen if it does."
"It's a good plan," he agreed. They finished up and headed to where Blair did Jim's testing to see if he could find enhanced senses in Xander.
Dawn looked over as Jim came in. "Hi. Blair told me to feed you the stuff in the bags for dinner tonight and to make some things for the poker game." She smiled and went back to work. "The boys are off doing what you ordered and staying out of trouble for once."
"That's a good thing," he agreed, zooming in on what she was cooking. "Rice?"
"For something sweet," she promised, giving him a hug. "I think he's letting you have junk food. It's a Wonder Burger bag." Jim smiled and went to get his treat for the month, finding it was indeed a burger with veggies and ranch dressing. He sat down to eat. "Jim, how do I get used to the difference between what I'm used to and normal? I keep expecting things to happen."
"As you keep going it fades and it'll be in the back of your mind," he said honestly. "I have the same thing about being attacked. I still expect to be attacked but I know it's unlikely to happen and now I won't be handling it on my own." She came out to hug him around the throat then went back to here rice cooking. "We do have a rice cooker."
"It makes it too sticky."
"Okay." He nodded, eating another bite. "How strange was it? I mean, spirits coming out of the walls? Dancing demons?"
"Only the once," Dawn admitted. "My fault too. It was part of my 'I need attention' plea. I accidentally set off a talisman that summoned a show tunes demon. Everyone in town sang and danced around town." He choked at that. "Sorry." She got him a napkin and some juice. "I guess it was normal at home. Mom didn't want to hear about hunting but hunting was like the only after school activity available. So I'd get up, go to school, feel sucky there, go to Giles' and help however I could while being treated like a baby. I mean, most people would consider Spike strange but to me he's like one of my favorite people. He cares about me. He threatened to turn me once so I could be battier than Dru but he still loved me. It's not all hot and cold running spells and stuff."
"That's good at least. Then up here it'll be like that but the going to Giles part will be nearly gone since we're in such a null area according to Xander." He finished his first burger and wiped his mouth off, sipping the juice. "What is this?"
"Star fruit juice."
"Yours or Blair's idea?"
"Blair said you had to drink one whole glass of it before you complained to him tomorrow. Simon too." She smiled and pulled off the rice, getting to work on making it the crust for her treat for the poker players. She finished layering on the fruit, nuts, and then the caramel drizzle, putting it into the oven. Then she got to work on popcorn. Jim looked back when she turned on the popcorn maker. "No popcorn?" she called over it.
He shrugged. "Doesn't matter." She nodded, making a small bowl. He turned down his hearing so he wouldn't be driven nuts by the air popper but that treat did smell good. He looked over when someone appeared with a small flash of light.
"Spike!" she squealed, running over to hug him. "What're you doing up here?"
"I'm hiding from Red," he said dryly. "Go turn that off, bint. It's loud." She went to do that and bounced back to hug him some more. He smiled down at her. "You'll be my next princess, right?"
"If Xander says it's okay," she said happily. "If not, he'll get mad at us."
"He can get mad all he wants." He nodded cordially at Jim. "Bloke."
"You'd be Spike?" he said blandly. The shortish, punk looking, blond man was not what he would expect a vampire to look like, especially not an older or powerful one. Spike smirked and nodded. "Dawn, the guys are starting to pull in. Send Spike to your place?"
She looked at him. "Why are you up here?"
"Red wanted to have a new girl to moan and complain with. She's going bonkers again."
"You'd make a pretty girl," she teased. "But I'd rather have you the badass vampire you are." She opened the door and went back to cuddling Spike. "Hi, Simon. I made popcorn and Jim, can you please rescue the treats from the oven? They should be lightly golden brown on the rice part and the fruit should just be a bit smooshy." He nodded, going to do that. She looked at Spike. "She turned Xander into a puppy once."
"Eeeeh. No thanks." He kissed her on the forehead. "It's still dark up here, right?" She nodded. "Where should I head?"
"Xander and Blair will be home soon." She pulled out her phone to call them. "Xander, it's me. Spike ran up here to get away from a Willow ice cream eating buddy mood." She waved. "He said hi and no you can't have his bed tonight. Go to the mall and find a good spot to hide. Remember she can track you." He nodded. "Thanks, Xander. I did. I made my rice and fruit thing tonight. If there's any left we'll save you some. Tell the fussy one with the good hair that Jim did as ordered." She hung up and smiled when Willow showed up. "Why would you want to change Spike from being Spike?"
"Because he's a girl underneath," she said dryly, waving a hand at Spike. He squeaked as he changed. "There, better." She started to move but Jim and Simon stopped her. "Hey! Not yours! Not even into your kind!"
"Willow, that was *bad*," Dawn said, smacking her on the head. "Bad witch!" Willow pouted. "You can date!"
"But.... There's no other girls in town to talk to but your sister and she's being weird again," she pouted.
Simon leaned outside when he heard the other detectives come out of the elevator. "Guys, give us a few. Some of Xander's friends are up and need an intervention before Jim smacks her around." He closed the door again. "Change him back," he ordered coolly. She glared at him. He glared back and she shrank down. "Now, young lady! That is not right and if you're on the same side we fight on you'd better do it now!"
"I was going to show Buffy she liked girls," she pouted.
Dawn sighed, shaking her head. "Now, Willow. Don't make me try it." Willow glared at her. She huffed and went to work on changing him back, getting him halfway there. "Well..." she told Spike. "Trying."
"I know, bint." He kissed her on the forehead and vamped out, going after Willow. She squealed and disappeared. Spike glared at the ceiling. Dawn drew something around him with the chalk Blair kept for making notes on the board for Jim, sending him home. "Thank you," he called back.
"Welcome." Dawn scuffed it and put the chalk back, going to get a damp paper towel to clean up the mess. "Sorry. Willow's a bit... wrong sometimes." She called Giles while she worked. "It's me. I tried to undo what Willow did to Spike. He's a beautiful hermie. Like ancient greek god/dess?" she suggested. "Yeah, one of those. Because she decided my sister should turn lezzie and wanted Spike to prove it to her. Yeah, so I tried. He's back there. He was able to go after her without the headache too, Giles. Sure, when he's back to normal. Thanks." She hung up and let the guys in. "Strange stuff is over with and I made treats," she said proudly, letting the others inside. Jim and Simon shared a look. She brought out the popcorn and went to cut the rice bars, stacking them on some wax paper she found, bringing out the layered plate of those too. "Try it before you complain. It's really good and gooey." She smiled at Jim. "Can you teach me how to play?"
"I think you could use the relief from the strange stuff," Jim agreed quietly. "We'll be right back, guys. Don't start without us." He walked her out to the balcony, closing the door. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine but I haven't fully studied gender spells. Willow can undo it all if and when she gets spanked by Giles again." She blinked because he looked upset. "I know you don't like the strange stuff, Jim. I'm sorry we did that there."
He gave her a hug. "We'll get you used to normal things again, Dawn." He let her go. "Come on. You can be like our mascot or something." He smiled when she bounced back inside, looking at Simon. The kid would end up being like his little sister but he would make sure she handled and saw less strange things. Even if he had to make Xander quit hunting. He came back in. "We ready to lose money to me tonight, boys?" They all nodded, their mouths full of her treat. He smiled at her. "Good choice."
"You guys eat donuts and drink sugary coffee, it should go well and it's a healthy snack except for the caramel." She smiled. "Even Blair would approve." That got more smiles and the guys adopted her to help her learn how to play poker with them.
"Hey, Dawn, we heard another voice, which friend was it?" Brian Rafe asked, pushing back some of his dark hair.
"Spike ran up to get away from Willow but she came to get him," she admitted. "She was having an anti-boy day and Spike got caught in the crosshairs. Usually it would've been Xander. Thankfully it's easier to fix Spike than Xander."
"Or watch Sandburg pout at her for it," Simon said dryly.
"I think Blair would've smacked her around for it," Dawn told him. "Blair's very possessive of Xander. They're buddies," she said at the odd looks she got. "They're very tight friends."
"I made Blair use Xander as a test subject tonight," Jim said smugly.
"Good job," Simon said, patting him on the back.
"So, what was Willow going to do to him?" Rafe asked.
She looked at him. Then at Jim, who shrugged and Simon who moaned a bit. "She was going to turn him into a girl to prove to my sister that she might like girls. Since she and Spike were doing the nasty, icky stuff. I so did not want to hear about her sex life ever again." She shuddered at the sudden mental images she got. "Eww. Buffy has bad taste - Angel, Riley, Spike. Not that Spike isn't cute but he's still deadly. Riley put the chip in Spike's head and helped with the torture program down there that they stopped. Angel was....well, there's no good way to describe Angel. Except brooding." She shrugged again. "Anyway she wanted to prove to my sister that she'd like girls too."
"Tell me she had a knife?" Joel said quietly.
She looked at him. "Willow doesn't like knives. Knives are Xander's job."
They all just nodded. "Willow was one of the sources of strange things that we're saving Dawn and Xander from," Jim announced. "Simon and I nearly cuffed her and made her sit in the corner."
Dawn looked at him. "Her parents are shrinks who lecture a lot."
"I saw their name recently," Simon said smugly. He called Sandburg. "The psych lecture you went to. Were those Willow's parents?" He smirked. "Had a talk with them? Good. No, she and Spike were here. Spike was trying to get away because she wanted to change Spike so he'd prove Buffy liked girls too." He listened to the deep, calming breath, then the second one. "Exactly," he said when Blair kept breathing. He hung up. "He had a good, long talk with her parents about being failures." They all smiled at that. Sandburg had a mouth on him when he needed to and he was sure they got a clue.
"They're still in Denver as far as she knows and she hasn't heard from them that I've heard," Dawn told them. "Hopefully it'll sink in sometime this century. Before they die and have to haunt her for being so stupid."
That got some smiles and nods from that idea.
"Then again they might nag her into better behavior," Jim said, looking at her hand. "That one," he said quietly. She nodded, letting Rafe exchange two of her cards for her since she was holding up the game. She didn't even say anything when Simon lit up a cigar. Only got him some juice too. "Sandburg said she had to subtly nag, Simon."
He looked at the juice and gulped it, then nodded. "Not bad. What was that?"
"Star fruit juice."
"Not bad," he decided, putting the glass into the sink. He got three cards and tossed them all down. "I'm out." He leaned back puffing some. That let him help Dawn with her hand, watching her crow when she won her first hand. It was much more even without the two sharks in the room.
Tony woke up when someone floated into his room, blinking at the man standing there. "Don?"
"Why are you a ghost?"
"Out of my body," he said dryly. "Got blown up."
"Uh-huh. See a silver cord?" He nodded. "Good, follow it back before you get eaten and I have to hear the wailing." He nodded, doing that while Tony got up to call Mac. "Is Don all right? He's out of his body, Mac." He got up to find the reference he needed. "Okay. I'm assuming he's in the hospital. Can you use tea lights?" He grimaced. "ICU, huh. Okay. Well....." He changed rituals, finding what he needed. "Here we are." He texted it to him. "That is a poultice on his chest to draw him back. I guess it can go above the injury. Need us?" He nodded. "As long as you got him. How's Danny taking it?" He smiled. "I'm sure he needed the stress break, Mac. Look at the personality and what he's been through." He nodded. "That'll work. Yeah, that much. Have Danny go fetch. It'll make him quit feeling so helpless. Thanks." He looked up when Don floated back in. "Lost it?"
"I know it does." He looked up. "Yo, Marcus?" His ancestral look-alike floated in. "Can you help me escort Don back to his body?"
"I can do that," he agreed, coming over to help him get out of his own body, watching as Antonio guarded the two travelers on their way. He looked at Ancelin. "Go tell Gibbs?" She nodded, going to do that. He looked at his nephew's chest. "What is that?" He heard the faint 'don't touch that, it's to protect me'. "Fine," he complained. "But you'll be explaining it, nephew."
Ancelin floated into Gibbs' house, touching to wake him up. "Don's out of his body. Tony's escorting him back."
He looked at her. "So he'll be late?" She nodded. "What happened?"
"There was an explosion," she said quietly. "I did what I could but he still got a severe stomach wound."
"It'll be fine, Ancelin. If they could bring Tony back from having the plague they can save Don's life." He sat up, looking at her. "Go be a beacon to his body." She nodded, going to do that. He got up and went to put on clothes, going to Tony's house to watch over him. He found the ghost standing guard over him. "How long will this take?"
"A few hours depending on how straight the path Don took originally was. They have to retrace his steps or he can lose part of himself on this side. Which could end up killing him or keeping him in a coma." He grimaced. "What is this fake thing in his chest?"
"It's called a suicide patch. It's so someone can't capture him and try to use his blood to get a new strain of the plague."
He blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Diseases as weapons are a horrible thing that humanity has brought to warfare," he said gently. "The same as you used to throw a dead animal over a city's walls to encourage pestilence? This is our version of that. Someone intentionally gave Tony the plague." His ancestor shuddered. "There's people who want to use his blood and body to distill some new strain down. That patch will keep them from getting him. It'll let him end it quickly and easily in a way that'll rob them of his blood."
He sighed. "Humans haven't gotten much past our animal roots in all the time we've been walking upright. We Romans did horrendous things to others. Modern soldiers do the same," he said, shaking his head. "You'd think we'd be more civilized now."
"In some ways we are," Gibbs said, sitting down to watch over Tony too. "In some ways we're still human."
"Thank you for explaining that to me."
"Not a problem."
"Can you explain guns to me? Xander seems to like them a lot."
He smirked. "Xander likes many things he shouldn't have. Guns are just one of them."
"Does that include his storage area?"
Gibbs blinked at him. "Storage area?" He went to find a book, bringing it back. "Does it hold cases that look something like these?" he asked, letting him see a picture. Marcus nodded and smiled. "That'll end. Is it still in Sunnydale?"
"No, he didn't want to worry about Buffy having PMS and using one to destroy the town, his words," he said proudly. "He moved them to Cascade."
Gibbs called Jim. "I know it's early, Ellison. It's Gibbs. No not an emergency, something you should know. Someone should talk to the boy about what he has in storage. Because he's an artillery sort, Ellison. Guns and artillery, plus possibly explosives. It's in Cascade somewhere. Marcus, any idea where?"
"The hotel he's working at. He had Dawn cloak it and she's sure they won't need it but she knows Xander pets them and talks to them now and then."
"Did you hear that?" He nodded. "Yeah, I think a gentle talk would go well, Ellison. Nothing too evil but a gentle talk. Exactly. Well, it was his past. Dawn told Marcus he pets them." He listened to him complain about Willow and Spike earlier. "I don't blame him for running. Did you get to at least slap the brat?" He nodded. "I'll let Horatio know since she likes to pop down to Miami. Maybe he'll spank her. Thanks. Tell Sandburg we think Don will be fine. The one in New York, Jim. Yeah, he got hurt in an explosion. Thanks." He hung up. "Someone's got to be a parent to those two."
"Blair could," Marcus offered.
"Blair might but he'll go too gently and if something like those gets into bad hands, it's dangerous. Those are extreme weapons." He shuddered. "Like one of those could probably destroy a building extreme weapons." That got a nod. "Is Don back yet?"
"They're freeing him of the ethereal dragon's paws. He caught a piece of Don's line. Antonio's with them. He's a strong warrior if something happens." That got a nod and they settled in to wait.
Horatio opened his email the next morning, looking at the letter from Jim. He blinked. "Excuse me?" He reread it. He looked around. "Mr. Wolfe?" He came jogging in. "Does that say what I think it does?"
He read it then nodded. "Yup, Willow decided to turn Spike into a girl to make Buffy a lesbian." He looked at him. "Jim didn't get to spank her. He's hoping someone does the next time she shows up down here, New York, or DC."
"That'll change," he said grimly.
Ryan smiled. "Need extra cuffs? I've got a good set of iron manacles at home."
"I doubt it'll be necessary but I'll remember that for future reference. Anything I should know about going on?"
"I expected that," he admitted. "Once her temper's gone she'll do that." That got a smile. "If you should see Miss Rosenburg, tell me."
"Of course, H." He went back to work. "Eric, if you see Willow, send her to Horatio?"
He moved closer so no one would overhear. "She decided to play with someone's gender last night," he said quietly. Eric shuddered. "He's in a talking to her mood."
"My mother would've beaten me to death if I had even thought about that idea," Eric said dryly.
"Hers were shrinks," Ryan said with a smirk. "They're lecturing shrinks." He looked online, finding they were coming to Miami in a few weeks. He printed that out and went to hand it to Horatio with a smug look. "Her parents."
"Interesting. I'll make time for that lecture, Mr. Wolfe. Thank you."
"Blair did too. They apparently haven't listened yet."
"They will listen to me," Horatio assured him. That got an evil grin and he left. He wrote Mac. He had heard about the explosion and he wanted to make sure his team was fine. The answer he got back from Stella made him upset. She said he'd be fine but still.
Don found his body again and saw the woman waiting on him. "Anny," he sighed, giving her a hug. She sank into his arms. He felt torn. "I...."
She hid her face because she knew she couldn't be selfish, even though everything in her was screaming to keep him with her, to keep him safe. "Shh. Give it a few more minutes, Don." He nodded, going back to holding her. She kissed him then moved out of the way. "You should go back."
"Don, your parents are coming in an hour," Mac said quietly, knowing he was close by even though he couldn't see him.
Don looked at her, touching her face. "It's a dangerous life I lead in this life," he said gently. "Him too." She swallowed and nodded. "Not long, love."
"They need you," she agreed. He smiled and nodded, giving her another kiss, making her smile less sadly. "We can still touch the other way." He gave her another cuddle and kiss. "Go, Don, before you stay with me." He nodded, sliding into his body with Tony's help. She looked at Tony, then at Don when he started to wake up. "I'll wait, Volka, you know that." She smoothed down his hair, looking at Tony. "Do you need helped back?"
"I've done it before," he promised, giving her a hug. She let him for now. "Shh. It's not going to be that long, Ancelin. You'll have him back shortly." She nodded at that. "You could go help the new spirit guardian in Miami. Speed's a nice guy, if a bit sarcastic now and then." She smiled at that, fading out. He nodded at Mac. "Let me get back into my body. Expect calls." He faded out, heading back to his body. Both his ancestors guarded him back to it and he slid back inside, sitting up with a yawn and a stretch. "I hate being ethereal. It always makes me want to pee." Gibbs snorted at that, pushing over a cup of coffee. "Thanks, boss." He sipped it. "He's back in his body. He's waking up. She's promised to wait for him to come back to her when his time was done." That got a nod. "What time is it?"
"Let me shower and change," Tony offered, heading up to do that. Then he came down and let Gibbs drive him to work. "Sorry about that, boss."
"It was for a good cause, DiNozzo. I don't want Flack to die either. How did you learn to do that?"
"Meditation techniques when I was ten," he said with a small grin. "My cousin sat me down and talked me through it the first time and then I went to travel and see the ancestors that way. Scared the crap out of Marcus. He was trying to see if the new Pope of the time was worthy so we both ended up inside the Vatican. He thought I was an angelic messenger for a few seconds."
"Saw what you were like?"
"More saw how much I looked like him. He knew then I wasn't anything other than family and therefore not angelic. I still have trouble going out of my body without an anchor nearby but it's a fun trip. You float, you see things you normally wouldn't. Speaking of, I've got to call Eric."
"A guy on Horatio's team. Or maybe Horatio." He considered it. "I'll call Horatio. He'll tell his guy." That got a nod from Gibbs and they pulled through for new coffees. "Anything happen while I was out?"
"I found out Xander brought his artillery collection with him."
"Do you really want it with Buffy, boss?"
"No, but I do think he didn't tell Jim or Simon."
"That could be a bad thing," Tony admitted. "Dawn hiding it for him?" He nodded. "Then it's doubtful it'll be found. It'd have to be someone who knew it was around and who was trained like Willow was or who is immune to magic."
"Still not a chance I want to take," Gibbs reminded him.
"Point. He'll pout though."
"I know. That's why I'm letting Ellison handle it."
"He's going to balk at them. He and Jim are in a bit of odds over Blair," he pointed out.
"It'll be fine. Banks has sense." He pulled into the NCIS parking garage and got them into the elevator, then upstairs. "McGee, did we miss anything?"
"Other than a massive fit because New York didn't call us in?" he offered. "No."
"Why would they have? The guy who did it only thought he was a Marine," Tony told him. "He was turned down many times due to psych problems." He sat down. "Besides, Taylor was a Marine, Probie. I'm sure he got off his gurney and went back to handle it like Gibbs does."
Gibbs nodded. "From what Mac told me. We texted while you two were talking."
Tony nodded. "That's reasonable. Grandmother didn't do more than get hugs." Gibbs smiled at that, nodding a bit. "So, case?"
"The same one we had yesterday," McGee reminded him.
"Oh yeah." He got back to work on what he had done yesterday, then saw a spot he hadn't checked, as far as he knew, so he went there. "Did we run down their gun club memberships?"
Gibbs looked over. "Missing the last few hours of yesterday, DiNozzo?"
"Tired, boss. She got me up at three. Where did I leave off?" McGee came over to make notes for him. He nodded. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He went back to his seat. "Abby wanted a call too, Tony. She said Homer's out of control on the soy chocolates."
"That's a training issue. She should ask Gibbs." He looked over. "They eat it even knowing that they'll get sick and sent back so that's a fault in their thinking."
"I'll go over obedience training with her later," Gibbs said. He got back to work. "Does anyone have anything *new* to offer?"
"Ziva thought she had an idea so she's off chasing it, boss."
"I noticed she was invisible," he said dryly. "Any idea what?"
"No. She got that 'found the chocolate ice cream in the back of the freezer at two in the morning' look and ran out before I could ask."
Gibbs paged her phone, getting a call back. "You're doing what without backup?" He listened then nodded. "Uh-huh. DiNozzo, that gun club membership?"
"At the Salle Gun Club, boss. They have another one but this one is speciality shooting, including sniper training and minor artillery training. It's a very Xander cooing in pleasure place." That got a single nod and he went back to searching. "It's on a watch list for having the artillery. They think it's a weak bunker and easily breached. Plus the FBI isn't sure there aren't extremists using the facilities. Again, a Xander cooing in pleasure place. It's also listed ..." He looked up another link. "There's a tie back to a mafia money laundering scam a few years back. One of the partners listed on the papers on file is a formerly indicted mafioso whose charges were dropped on...." He found that information. "Money laundering, gun trafficking, and murder for hire." He looked over. "He's an assassin, boss."
"Interesting." He listened to her babble. "David, one of the owners is a mafia related assassin who had the charges suddenly dropped when he was indicted. There's artillery there. Ties to extremists. Tony said it's a place Xander would coo at." He heard her shudder. "Where are you?" He listened then nodded. "I'm sending Tony to you. Stay there." He hung up and nodded, letting Tony head out. "Be careful."
"Of course." He headed down, taking one of the company sedans out there. He found her looking around and blinked. "Next time, warn us."
"Your other job was interfering," she said, trying to sound reasonable.
He popped her on the head. "So? You still call Gibbs first, Ziva." He walked her back there, showing the pictures. "I know she's probably already asked but what training were these two sailors taking and do we think they could pull off an eight-hundred yard sniper shot on a clear day, like two days ago?"
The man blinked. "She didn't ask that." He looked then nodded, tapping one. "He is." He looked at him. "You're with...." Tony pulled out his badge. "Ah, NCIS. A few of you guys use here."
"It's a place I'd come to train," Ziva agreed. "Which I do need. That's why I was asking."
Tony looked at her. "Ya think?" He looked at the laughing arms master again. "Any idea where they could be?"
"I thought we found one dead," she said, looking confused.
Tony looked at her. Then he sighed and looked at him again. "And their backup areas?"
"They've got two places they go to talk or hide out on their weekends off. They've got a storage area as well," he said, making notes. "Plus they usually come in with someone...."
"Tony DiNozzo. On Gibbs' team with her."
"Ah!" He nodded, smirking at him. "Tell him Ranger said hi."
"I can do that." He took the information. "Thank you." He texted that message to Gibbs, getting a smirk back. "He had McGee text back a hi and call him."
"I can do that. Thanks, DiNozzo. Officer David, we'd love to have you back if you can agree to the rules."
"I can do that. Thank you." She left with Tony. "I could've...." He glared at her and she stopped speaking. "I was finding information."
"Why? They're on a watch list," he said quietly. "We already know." He got into his sedan and headed back to the office, presenting the notes to Gibbs, and the name to McGee. "Their friend who goes shooting with them. The arms master identified Hallidol as someone who could make the sniper shot. That's their storage area and where they go to hang out."
"Humans are creatures of habit," McGee agreed. "The other's listed as missing as of this morning, Gibbs. Never came back from a few days' leave."
"Address on him?" he demanded. McGee printed it out. "Go with Tony to the storage areas. I'll take Ziva with me."
"She never asked, boss. She was rooting for subtle information."
"I heard. He called me once you left. Said you had good manners even if you didn't identify yourself right off. You looked too Fed not to be one though." Tony grimaced at that. "Go." They left to hit the storage area while he waited on Ziva to get back and take her to question the new person while he chewed her a new one for not calling him before she went and not telling him where she was. Plus for going at it with the wrong angle.
Xander leaned into Simon's office. "You wanted me to take a lunch, Simon?"
"I did. Get in here and close the door, Xander." He leaned back, watching as the kid did that and sat down facing him. "I hear you brought weapons into my city."
"I didn't want to leave them down there when Buffy or Willow with PMS would've used them to destroy everything and still not solve a problem."
"You still brought harmful, lethal, classified weapons into my city, Harris."
"I have them hidden."
"They can be found."
"The odds of finding a terrorist who *knows* I have them and is chaos trained is very small, Simon. They have to have both qualities to find them. That's why I let Dawn hide them instead of Willow. Willow looked around and only found two terrorists who might be able to find them if they heard I had weapons, because you have to know to look, and they're both Russian and over there. She's keeping an eye on them because they had come to Sunnydale in the past to see what was going on."
He blinked at that. "So, to find them, they have to know you have weapons and they have to know that you've got them hidden in a Willow and Dawn manner?" Jim asked before closing the door. Xander nodded. "Both have to qualify?"
"Unless they stumble over them and they've got detection spells set up? Yes. Then again I've got them hidden in ways that mean that they can't be randomly tripped over. It's not like they're a chair. It's more like they're invisible and in my closet and things."
"Okay," Jim agreed with that. "Did Sandburg find one?"
Xander gave him a sheepish look. "I know he's a bit pacifist but this is my training, Jim. I've had to prepare to defend and save the world a few times and I know he doesn't like to think about what I had to or the methods we had to use. I don't want to upset him."
Simon looked at him then at Jim. Then back at Xander. They were both seeing the lack of self esteem and the almost puppyish desire to please Sandburg. That could lead to later problems. "I think it's more than Dawn who needs a good parent, kid," he said finally. Xander gave him a confused look. "Did your parents let you hoard weapons in their house?"
"They were too drunk to care and I hid them from them too. The one machine gun they found they sold for extra beer money."
Jim sat down. "Didn't your department down there stop them?"
Xander looked at him. "Jim, I killed the vampires who had most of the weapons in my possession. Except for the few things we got from the military base when it was an urgent need I got all those by taking it away from the hands of those who wanted to end the world with them." He shifted to face him better. "Giles sent me out to go stop them because Buffy couldn't at times or she was too busy or it took someone sneakier. Buffy's very blunt. Very quip and slay. I can be more subtle and sneak in. He had me doing a lot of frisking their crypts for useful things and then giving Spike the rest for him to sell or do whatever he wanted with. It's how we had to live.
Jim groaned. "Your police department?"
"If it wasn't a domestic dispute, shoplifting, or the occasional drunk driver, they never came out, Jim. They tried to arrest Buffy for killing a robot."
Simon moaned. "Okay, kid. Level with us. What do you have?"
"I have the list at home but I know each and every single piece of equipment, Simon. I pet them every few days." Blair walked in and he beamed and waved. He came in looking confused. "They heard I brought up the weapons from Sunnydale."
"I've been meaning to talk to you about that, Xander. It is a bit dangerous. I went to bum a t-shirt the other night and found the grenade launcher." Xander gave him a sheepish look.
"Did you know he had it?" Simon asked.
"I knew he had some weapons. I helped him unpack the two AK's, Simon. I found it by touch and figured out what it was by the shape." He looked at him. "Would someone like the maid find it?"
"It'd be invisible to her and untouchable if she didn't know I have weapons. She knows I have a handgun because she caught me cleaning it one night. That's also why she doesn't do more than vacuum, Blair." He looked at his watch. "Are we nearly done? I've got to head back to finish my shift." They waved and he hugged Blair before leaving.
Simon nodded for Jim to shut the door. "The kid needs a parent," he told Blair. "He's overly eager to please you. It's going to cause problems."
"Not totally. He was hiding them from me because he knows I don't like guns," Blair pointed out. "I won't argue the kid needs a good big brother. I was hoping Jim could step in since they do have similar hunting and survival training and histories."
"He said Giles sent him out to take out the vampires who had the weapons," Jim told him.
Blair sat down, pulling his hair back. "That makes sense. Buffy's very loud, very open about what she does. As we've both found out, Xander can sneak and enter very well. I'm sure he sicced Buffy on some and Xander on different targets based on what he thought they had and who was better suited to it." He looked at Jim. "Would you want to leave something like a grenade launcher in someone like Spike's hands?"
"No," Simon said. He had heard a lot about Spike from Dawn. "Or that Angelus guy either."
"That's Angel when he's slipped his soul," Blair told him.
"Good to know. How does that happen?" Jim asked.
"Happiness. A moment of total contentment and happiness is the out clause. Or Xander said they found out some drugs could make him slip it for a few hours. He's in LA with Xander's ex Cordelia watching over him while she works with him to help others."
Jim looked at him. "All right, I can mentor the kid. He's a nice kid who could use calmed down from the edge of combat he lives on. He threw a knife at a rat the other day, Sandburg," he reminded him at the odd look.
"And managed to kill it with a brain shot," Blair agreed. "Then he held a small funeral for it."
Simon nodded. "The kid definitely needs more family than Sandburg. Jim?"
"I'm comfortable with the kids, Simon. More Dawn than Xander since he and I are competing for Blair's attention now and then."
Blair looked at him. "You knew I'd find someone to like and date seriously some day, Jim."
"I knew that, Chief, but it doesn't mean it's not a distraction now and then."
"Actually, you and Xander hunt very alike," Blair told him. "I taped it the night of the poker game. He does his without heightened senses but his past possessions have left him with African Plains hunting experience. Woods he's comfortable with. Desert he had to learn." That got a nod. "I think proving that to both of you would solve some of it. Unless you wanted to be our toy?" he joked.
"Not my thing, thanks anyway," Jim said dryly. "I can see hunting with him."
"You two both seem to spend a lot of time rescuing Sandburg," Simon said dryly. "So we can start to build a family around the wonder twins? Back them off this danger peak they're on? Make sure they don't finish destroying what Jim hasn't in various car chases?"
Blair smiled and nodded. "He'd like it. He's not sure what one is. His were drunks. Bad drunks. Like he slept outside every Christmas since he was six until the year he moved out drunks," Blair told him. "Apparently the CPS office in Sunnydale is either selective or new."
"I got a call from her new worker up here," Jim admitted. "She's very nice. Someone we've worked with before. They assigned it to her because he listed you as a local contact number and alternate medical contact, Sandburg."
"That's fine. I told him he could," Blair agreed. "I've talked to her twice now. She wanted to make sure Dawn was enrolled already and was set for school. I know she's had a few problems adjusting to being in the lesser year. Some of the kids who think it's a laughing matter and things. She's pointed out a few times she was doing spectacular down there, it's just that Sunnydale is behind on educational standards. She's not the first that's happened to either. It'll settle down within a few weeks."
"She came in sobbing last night," Jim said quietly.
"I know. I went to chew her teacher a new one for her." He gave him a look. "Then I turned the teacher in to CPS and the state educational board." That got a smirk from Simon. "I hate bad teachers and that one was pushing her buttons about her mother and the bad school system down there. Dawn finally put down a copy of their graduation test and said at least she had been at the top of the piss poor system before walking off and breaking down. Do she and Darryl get along, Simon?"
"They do. They've studied together a few times. My ex said that she caught him verbally slapping some kid who was picking on Dawn too." That got a nod from both men. "So we're agreed, we'll watch them a bit more closely? Help Harris learn what self esteem is?" That got a nod. "Get me a list, Ellison."
"I'm giving it to Gibbs, Simon. He's NCIS. He can handle the kid. He's seen others and he's aware of the same sort of situations that made Xander the way he is."
"That's reasonable. I want a copy of my own."
Jim nodded. "I can do that. Any other orders?"
"Get that homicide off your desk," he ordered.
"Easy enough to do," Blair said. "The guy has a fascination for lemon pastries. The lab should be able to match the recipe with a few test samples." Simon gaped. "Horatio can. Mac can. Tony said Abby could when I asked on the mailing list last night. Why can't ours?"
"I don't know," Simon admitted. "I'm about to ask Caine to come up and evaluate our lab to be remade. After I talk to the Chief about it."
"He might like the vacation in the snow," Jim offered, standing up. "How many places sell those particular type or style of lemon pastries, Chief?"
"Sixteen." That got a nod and they headed out to find the link to where he was getting it.
Simon called his boss. "Sir. Can I have a few minutes please. I have an idea. Because Sandburg and Ellison know people in some of the top labs in the country. Ours can't apparently match lemon pastry samples if they have samples from the places when a killer leaves some on the scenes. They've got contacts in Miami's and New York's lab, sir. All I'm asking is for someone to come in and evaluate ours. See how much it's going to cost. Because apparently we're behind, sir. Very behind. Sandburg said this should have been elementary science and we're behind. Look at their solve rates," he offered. "Forensics is more and more important in court." He smiled. "That's what I'm asking for. I can ask either one through them, sir. That's fine. Thank you." He hung up and went to log into Jim's email from his desk to send that request to the mailing list as a whole. He'd let Horatio and Mac see who could come up to figure out how far behind they were.
Ryan looked at the email notification on his phone, getting into it. "Horatio?" He came over to take the phone and read it. "Blair asked a question last night that I answered for you. He wondered if we could match a lemon pastry sample left on a few crime scenes if they had samples from various bakeries. I told him it was fairly easily done. His lab apparently can't."
Horatio hummed. "I'll talk with them tonight after I talk with Mac. It can only help to get them competent forensics people." He handed the phone back and went to call Mac. "It's Horatio. Did you get the new email message?" He smiled. "Apparently Sandburg asked about matching pastry samples to something left on a crime scene. Their lab can't. His boss wants someone on the list to come up and evaluate it. We should talk to Abby and see who wants to go to Cascade to see the boys and Dawn." He smiled. "That's fine, if you want," he promised. "Good. Thanks, Mac." He hung up and called Abby. "I know you've seen." He listened to her babble that she was backed up and couldn't hope to go for more than weekend. "I can send one of mine, Abby. Don't stress." He smiled. "That's a good idea. Thank you." He hung up. "Calleigh." She looked up. "You're going to Cascade, Washington to check the labs. They're apparently behind. The Major Crimes Captain wants to know how far behind and what they need to update." She nodded. "Also, check on Xander and Blair, plus Dawn for us."
"Sure, I can do that, Horatio. What's the weather like?"
"Snow, slush, and rain," Ryan told him. "That's what Blair's sigline says."
"I can handle that too," she said more cheerfully. She got back to work. She'd make the travel arrangements when they got back to the scene. "How bad am I looking at?"
Horatio coughed. "Do you remember meeting Cassie Wells at that convention a few years back?" She nodded slowly. "She's the head of their lab."
"She can't match pastry samples," Ryan told her.
"Oh, crap," she muttered. They both nodded. "I'll fly out tomorrow, Horatio." He smiled and nodded at that. "I'll bring back my evaluation too, just in case they need further input after they have heart attacks at the price tag."
"Might be a good idea," he agreed. "Also you might want to check with the FBI office up there, see what they've been forwarding."
"I can do that too. It'd be part of any evaluation." She got back to work, mentally packing her bag in the back of her mind. It was going to be a long trip.
Calleigh walked into the Major Crimes unit, smiling at the men who gave her odd looks. "Aren't you all polite," she said with a smile. "I was told to come see Captain Banks."
"He's in a meeting," one said, smiling at her. "Just got your detective's badge?"
She laughed. "Oh, Lord, no, sweetie, had it for nearly seven years now. I'm with the Miami Crime Lab. I'm here to evaluate yours for him and Horatio." She got gaped at by all but Jim, who waved. "You must be Jim. Xander described you pretty well." She shook his hand. "Calleigh Duquesne."
"Welcome to Cascade. The bobsy twins will be in after picking Dawn up from school. It's going to be about an hour."
"That's fine. Let me get some information from you guys. We work very closely with our homicide detectives so how much do you guys work with your lab?" She sat down at Jim's desk. "Anyone can answer, really. You don't have to be scared. I haven't bitten in years. Not since I was in Patrol." That got a smile.
"Cassie likes to shoo us off so she appears smarter," Henry said, smiling at her. "You're a field tech?"
"Field and ballistics. Though I have to be able to do a bit of everything really. I'm second in command in the Miami dayshift felony lab."
"You guys split your felony and non-felony off?" Rafe asked, looking confused.
"Oh, yeah. Plus we've got two shifts and a swing shift with a few field techs out of non- felony for the rush hour stuff." That got a gape. She smiled. "Our lab is about third highest in the country. That's why Simon used Jim's email to ask Horatio nicely to send one of us." She smiled when a tall African American man walked in wiping at his sweater vest. "You must be Captain Banks. Xander said you were taller than him and very commanding." He smiled at that. "Calleigh Duquesne. Horatio sent me."
He shook her hand. "I am Simon, come into my office. If you boys are through?" That got a nod and they got back to work. "Jim, any progress?"
"Three of the shops have almost the same pastry, Simon. So we've got it narrowed down and I've got a cruiser sitting on each one with the description we have. Unless Sandburg missed a place that sold lemon strudel pastry? Hopefully we'll get him the next time he has an attack of the munchies. Which usually happens right before he kills."
"Sometimes that's all you can do," Calleigh agreed. "I've caught a few because they had to pee before stabbing someone." Jim smiled at that. She followed Simon into his office. "First, I'm here," she said, putting down a card from the hotel. "My room number's on the back if you need to find me in a hurry and so is my cell number." He smiled at that. "How in-depth do you want me to go? Do you want me to project based on what *we* have? What a standard regional lab would have? A-level, B-level? Fed level?"
"Have you met Cassie?"
"Once," she admitted. "Very briefly at a convention."
"I want to know what it will take to get us up to the standard where we don't have to ship anything off, we have competent people down there, and they can work with us so our solve rate goes up again."
"That's easily done," she assured him. "I'm even going to be looking at the lab or labs that they have to forward stuff to, just in case there's a problem. We found one a few years back when we helped a smaller upstate lab update. They were sending to a federal level lab that had issues with a drunk tech." He smiled and nodded at that. "Any particular area you'd like me to focus on? Field work, trace, anything that pops up more often than not?"
"We have a lot of eco terrorists up here. They like Ellison and Sandburg."
"I heard. Xander was complaining about one before he spotted the unnatural breasts." He laughed at that. "I take it he sent you the picture too?" He nodded. "Shocked me we could get that big. I can gladly do that and make a suggestion about database options too. That's one big thing most labs don't really consider and some do have a yearly fee associated with them." He nodded. "So, take me down there, let me get started?"
"I can do that." He got up, walking her out. "Behave while I'm gone," he ordered.
"Of course they will. They're too big of boys to throw paper airplanes at each other." He laughed but got her onto the elevator. "This is a nice building. Ours is a bunch of glass."
"Seeing all the rain would depress us," he admitted. He led them into the lab, watching her look around. He heard her hum. "Making notes already?"
"Oh, yeah. Our trace lab is this big." Everyone stared at her so she smiled. "I got asked to come up and evaluate you guys based on Miami's current standards for your bosses. I'm CSI Duquesne out of Miami's dayshift felony lab."
Cassie gave a little snort. "We're as good as Miami is."
"Are you sure? Because that machine you were just working was recalled ten years ago due to faulty processor issues." Cassie gaped. She nodded. "Really. I'm not here to step on your toes, just look around, see what you have, what you need, and what you need to be at least a full standing, regional lab. Okay?"
"Sure," Cassie said. "I'd welcome the review. How long you in for?"
"As long as it takes," Calleigh said. She smiled. "Horatio said I could have the vacation." They all laughed at that. "It's better than my four homicides that I'm lead CSI on and helping train the new one who wants to move into the field someday soon." That got gapes. "Yes, I'm a field tech with a major in ballistics." That got harder gapes.
Simon laughed. "She's also second in command down in her lab. That's why Horatio sent her."
"You work with the cold one," one said in awe.
"Oh, no, Horatio's nice and warm. He's great with the victims. He's only cold when you try to lead any dance with him on a case or you try to go around him. Many Federal agents have figured that out the hard way." That got some smiles. "So, let me pull out my notebook and pen, and grab my lab coat out of my bag." She did that, pulling back her hair as well, and grabbing a pair of gloves. Then she got to work making notes on what they had, what they could do, and what people were qualified to do. It was going to be a long list of what was needed. Though she did take pity on Jim and do the pastry analysis for him, sending it up to him with one of the others who had been watching over her shoulder.
Calleigh walked into Simon's office four days later. "Well, I'm done." He smiled. She noticed the other man. "I'm expecting you to be the Chief of Police since I warned him I was coming now?"
"Under Chief. Our chief is presently in the hospital with a hernia."
She closed the door. "He might have a stroke." He winced. "There's different levels of labs. There's federal levels ones, like Miami is, there's regional ones, that means that they can handle pretty much anything that happens in their area that's standard but the more unusual things, like some mitochondrial DNA tests, might have to be sent off. And then there's the lesser labs."
"Please tell me we fit in the second?" Simon begged.
"Yes and no. Apparently you guys did about ten years or so ago." She sat down at Simon's table, letting the two men sit across from her. "There's a few problems and it's going to come back to haunt cases, Simon. The federal level lab you're forwarding to has a non-qualified person in DNA. They're a qualified tech but they're in training for the speciality; that can come back to haunt you at trial. It has them in the past so it's now an open secret. I did tell Cassie that and she said it was fine. Our ADA's would be screaming and ranting and telling us to forward around them." That got a nod from the Chief. "Now, within a year he's due to be certified. So that's a good thing. If you don't want to do DNA yourself that's an excellent thing if he stays." That got a nod. "Or you guys could poach. We have now and then," she admitted with a smile. "I got poached from New Orleans by Horatio long, long ago." She slid over the folder she had been carrying. "The first section is what you have, what people are able to do. You've got one qualified and trained field tech. And it's not Cassie." Simon whimpered. "Not that she can't do the work but she's not certified. By the way, I'll be telling her this later on myself over beers."
"Bottom line it for me?" the chief suggested.
"It depends on if you want to go back to being a regional lab or if you want to move up. If you want to be a regional lab? Your lab's too small. You need specialists or you need to train your people to be specialists and you need to hire at least six more field people so they can cover all shifts. You need a major machine upgrade because some of that stuff down there's ancient." She turned to that page. "This is what you have. This is what the closest regional lab has. I called and got their specs that they give out for court cases. I told them why and they agreed. They don't like Cassie either but they agreed you desperately needed an upgrade." She pointed at the third column. "This is what Miami has in each lab. Notice yours isn't broken down by lab, it's not comprehensive or inclusive of all fields. Your techs haven't been keeping up with continuing education. One's lost her certification totally and should not be in the lab. I did mention that to Cassie and she said she was working on it."
Simon looked at the second column. "How much did this cost them to upgrade to?"
"See, good labs do it piece by piece. A new thing comes out, they get a testing agreement with someone, they get the one they tested as a used price. Doing it that way lessens the sticker shock. Where you guys are ten years behind, you're looking at upgrading everything but some of the microscopes. You're looking at a lot of federal grant writing as well." The Chief perked up at that. "There are grants for that. Horatio sent me a list of which ones we use when we need a major upgrade. They're on the last page," she offered with a smile. She turned the page. "This is what they said they put into the lab over the last four years, which is their upgrade cycle. Again the third column is what Miami puts into an upgrade cycle, minus where they just updated our building on us and gave us a lot of glass." She smiled at the Under Chief. "It'd be easier if you put it in it's own building or their own floor here. Your lab is very small. I literally have single topic labs down in Miami that are as big as your whole lab up here."
He looked at the total. "Can we spread this out?"
"It depends." She turned to the last page in that section. "Horatio said these six companies are very good at working with departments, offering yearly payment plans and those things. They had to do that when he first took over the Miami lab." He smiled at that. "The two companies in red will not work with a department. They're money up front, but they will come in and train you on any new and nifty features. I'd start the grants at this point," she said, turning back to the third section. "This is how I would start upgrading. You're going to have to send your techs for educational updates. They've got to have it to keep up. Then you move on with a computer and a few machines for trace, ballistics, and chemistry. DNA is a later one since you can forward to the federal labs." That got a happier smile. "Anything in blue is time line. Red in this case means something that can occur if you want to add that ability to your staff. Notice the first thing is still hiring and updating personnel. New machines won't do you a bit of good if your people don't know what they're doing with them."
He took it to look at more closely. "It's laid out in years."
"If you wanted to overhaul it all at once, you're going to piss off your lab folk. They take pride in what they can do. Now, granted you could overhaul all at once and then update your people while you're doing it. Because it's going to take a few months to overhaul a floor or a new building. If you send them into intense education at that time they should be able to as long as you pick good, qualified people to fill in for the spots you don't have. Or you can do it the slow, steady method that gets people, including some detectives, used to it."
"My boys might freak out if they had a field tech that got out there, got dirty, and gave them straight answers," Simon noted.
"Some continuing education for the boys and girls in the normal jobs isn't that hard. Hold weekend seminars. Have the techs teach it as an 'I can do this and you can ask me about these things' sort of lecture series." That got a smile. "We love to brag about what we can do. I brag far and wide when I get a new machine."
The Under Chief looked at her. "Which style is better?"
"Depends on how Cascade works best," she told him.
"I'll definitely bring this to the Chief and make sure he knows that we might be eligible for grants. You included the web address?"
"That way you don't have to google anything. He can write grant applications while he's in bed too. Makes him feel useful again." He smiled and shook her hand. "Now, let me go take Cassie out for beers and talk to her. Then you guys can pull your people together and talk to her about this stuff and see which way yo want to go." She shook their hands. "I do have a copy that I'm keeping just for our records. Just in case something happens or you guys need more copies or whatever. If you need more advice, don't hesitate to call us. We're busy but we can take five to answer questions." That got a nod and she shook their hands again before leaving. She walked out to hug Jim. "I'm seeing the boys later for dinner. Are you coming?"
"Not tonight. We finally got the pastry guy in interrogation and he won't speak."
"Did he lawyer up?"
"He's not that smart."
Calleigh snorted. "Lead me to it. There isn't a man yet I can't break." She followed him, smiling at the man she walked in to look at. "Hi, I'm Calleigh Duquesne, a CSI." She sat across from him, staring at him. "So, I hear you like lemons?" He went pale at that. "You can talk to me. I'm not mean," she said gently, giving him her best motherly smile. "Why don't you tell me why you think they have you and we'll see what I can do about that? Okay?"
"What's a CSI?"
"Have you seen the forensic shows on the Discovery channel?" He smiled and nodded. "I do that. I do that down in Miami actually. I came up to consult with the lab and I got asked to see if you'd talk to me for a bit. See, they're not sure it's you."
He blinked. "I'm...." He sighed. "It might be me, I don't know. I have this thing about lemons and then I go blank." Jim brought in a lemon pastry, and he did indeed switch personalities. "You are?"
Calleigh looked at him and smirked. "I've seen better personality switches on teenagers, sweetie. Now, let's talk for real." He went absolutely pale. "Don't make me repeat myself. Why did you kill those people?"
He swallowed and she gave him a look that said he'd *better* tell her the truth or else it was only going to get worse on him. So he unburdened his soul to her. "They're profaning the earth and what it gives us! How can they eat fake granola and fake beans and fake carrots? Don't you see how bad this is for us? They're going to become cancer ridden people who're dependent on those like us to take care of them for their so-called healthy lifestyle."
Jim looked at him. "What about those people who go in for too much plastic surgery?"
"They kill themselves other ways. I was ordered to show people how bad the fake food is!" He slapped a hand on the table. "Don't you see what you're doing to yourself? How bad it is for you?"
"I had my roommate take away my cheeseburgers for the same reason," he said dryly.
"Those are at least mostly real still. Have you seen what's in some of those healthy choice dinners that they have at Friendly's and those places?"
"I have," Calleigh told him. "Surely there's a better way of getting the word out than to kill others?"
"I tried that and don't call me Shirley."
She smiled. "Cute." She patted him on the cheek. "Will you talk to Jim now? I'm a salad girl. I'm not one of the ones you're preaching to. I'm allergic to some of the fake stuff."
He smiled. "Good woman. Have babies and teach them the right way."
"Someday." She stood up and left Jim in there, going down to the lab to pull Cassie out. "You done yet?"
"Not yet. Are you?"
"Yup, which is why I'm taking you out for a beer and appetizers."
Cassie gave her a look. "Will I need the beer?"
Calleigh nodded. "Yup. C'mon. Let's go. I've got dinner with Blair and Xander after this and then I get to go back to my sunshine."
"Let me finish this test." She went back to it, letting her wait on her while she finished up and made her notes. Then she came over, taking off her gloves and coat before grabbing her winter one and walking out with her. "Where are we going?"
"Wherever you want."
"There's a good pub up the street." She took her there, settling into a back booth. "Lay it on me," she said once she had taken a drink. Calleigh slid over a copy of the report. She looked through it. "Miami has what?" Calleigh smiled and nodded. "You guys are federal level, right?"
"We are." She leaned closer. "The second column is the nearest regional level lab. That's what your lab should be." She looked at her. "You've got some updating to do."
"Damn it." She kept going, making it to the timeline. She nodded. "I know we could use some continuing education."
Calleigh patted her hand. "Sweetie, some of the tests I've seen you run we gave up on years ago when new versions came out."
Cassie took another drink. "You're not hitting on me, right?"
"My boyfriend would be very upset with me if I did. Just some comfort. We southern girls are like that."
"That's good to know." She looked at the timeline again. "We could do it all at once. Do the floors, go for the continuing education, and have the new kids coming in."
"That is an option I gave them. Either way it's going to be sticker shock. That gives you guys a few years to get up to date. Some of the machines the other lab has will be out of date by the end of that so you can go for the newest models at that time. I do know a few of your people won't be comfortable with a sudden influx or change."
"You're right about that." She put it down, looking at her. "Which is better?"
"The longer term gives you time to specialize, get your people certified in their areas in a way no defense attorney can complain about, and you the time to plan out your new lab. Doing it all at once means that when the new lab is built, your people have to be able to use it. Some of them need enough retraining to go back for their Masters again."
"So the longer term may help," she decided. Calleigh nodded. "Plus we could apply for grants?"
"That's the last page of the third section, as well as who will work with the department on payment plans and who won't. I explained this to Simon and the Under Chief before you. That way we could talk lab woman to lab woman."
Cassie nodded. "Thanks for the beer. I do need it." She let out a small hysterical sounding laugh. "I thought we were only a few years behind."
She shook her head. "No, I wish. About a decade really. It was probably behind when you took over."
"Sam was behind when I took over," she admitted. "How much expense are we looking at?" Calleigh turned back to the page after the index list of what was needed. She gulped the rest of her beer and Calleigh's. "They're going to hate us."
"They're going to hate having things thrown out and convictions overturned more," she pointed out gently. "Doing it long term also means you can get the other guys used to working *with* you. I love working with my detectives. They do half the work for me and pay attention when I speak. They drag in people so I can question them and all that good stuff."
"I'm surprised you guys get to carry guns."
"I'm a detective just like Ellison is, dear. With the same sort of solve rate," she admitted. "I came up through patrol like most of our lab did. Eric came up through Underwater Recovery."
She smiled at that. "He was cute. Whatever happened to Speedle?"
"His gun malfunctioned during a robbery while questioning a suspect in a kidnaping," she said quietly. "We lost him there." She sighed and nodded. "Our new boy's OCD about his weapon. He's a nice guy but now and then his mouth gets the better of him."
"Good to know." She motioned for another beer. "Is there a lesser level?"
"For a city the size of Cascade to go back to a county morgue office level?"
"It'd look horrible on us," she agreed, taking her new beer. "I should find Sam and kick her ass for this." She finished that one and started on Calleigh's new one. "Don't worry, I won't drive." She went back to looking. "Who else almost came?"
"The mailing list that Simon asked on includes members of our lab, New York's Manhattan Felony lab, and the DC NCIS lab tech."
"Yup, her," she said happily. "Horatio's on the list and he asked me to come up."
"Wow. Abby would've had a much higher demand."
"Abby's a wonderful tech who does nearly everything herself in a lab the size of yours. She's still one person and they do less cases than you do."
"Good point." She went back to reading. "I guess I'm lucky I didn't get Mac 'stick up the butt' Taylor in my face."
"Mac's a nice guy. We've worked with him a few times on crossover cases." Cassie gave her a horrified look. She smiled. "Miami is like the sixth borough now and then, especially for retirees and in winter."
"Good luck with that man. He's granite."
"He and Horatio joke and play pool the last night that they have to work together. They're both very focused but you might like Stella. Mac's second-in-command is a great woman. Very outspoken. Greek, swears at Mac now and then in Greek." That got a giggle from the other woman. "We both pull our own weight and temper our boss when they get too focused. She's a nice lady and we like working with them."
"Huh." She went back to the index list. At least until someone coughed from beside them. "I'm not your type, junior."
"I know that, you're not deadly," Xander said dryly, smiling at Calleigh. "I came to get this brilliant one for dinner." Cassie gave him an odd look. "I'm Xander, Blair's friend."
"Cassie Wells, over our lab." She shook his hand. "You date terrorists?"
"No but I have dated women who have tried to kill me repeatedly." She moaned, shaking her head. "That's why Blair's made me come up here with Dawnie." He smiled at Calleigh. "We are up the street if you're almost ready?"
"Nearly, Xander." She kissed him on the cheek. "Tell Blair I'll be right there." He nodded, going to do that. "I was asked to make sure they're still sane by Horatio since he knows them."
"Figures, Sandburg seems to know everyone," she said dryly, getting another beer. Calleigh paid the tab and put on another two beer's worth, letting her get drunk with the knowledge that she was in for some heavy changes coming up. She called Simon. "It'd have to be done the slow way so my people could catch up," she said in greeting. "Think about it as a five year plan instead of four. Calleigh said some of mine need as much updating as a new masters's and we'd have to get new people in. That would give the bosses time to up the budget where it needed to go without making drastic changes." She sipped her present beer. "I'm getting drunk and cursing Sam's name," she admitted. "Calleigh's right. We're so far behind Seattle it's not funny, Banks." She smiled at his kind words. "I know I've been doing the best I can but damn it, if we can do better we have to do better. Besides, it'll boost solve rates. That's where I am. Yup. Sure, come buy me more beers." She hung up and went back to staring at the index list. Then she turned back to the section hers had that Simon's didn't. They had to fix some protocol and regulation issues too. At least she had told her in private instead of in front of City Council. Simon came in and she handed over her copy open to that page. "I've got to kick ass in the morning."
He looked then nodded. "I'd hope so." He sat down across from her. "Soda. I'm driving." The waitress got him one. "Thank you." He paid her and looked at Cassie. "Longer?"
"With as much as we have to catch up? She's right, it's like a new Masters program. That'll take two or three years, maybe four if you can only take one class a semester."
"I think that's why she gave us the outline in the longer format. The Under Chief and I talked and he liked the longer format too. It would even out the changes and the budget without a sticker shock effect for a year and a half of buying high cost equipment that makes SWAT's budget look like mine."
"Yeah, that's another big thing. Grant writing is not my forte."
"She suggested the Chief could since he's laid up."
She smiled at that. "It could help. Did she suggest floor or building?"
"She said that was up to us. Which do you want?"
"I'd love my own building," she admitted. "I don't think the city could afford it and we can move another unit down to my floor. Or add another floor to the building so that everything's up to code and doesn't need to be torn out and fixed."
"That could be cheaper. I can ask Joan, her office did that recently."
She smiled a sappy smile. "Thanks for supporting us, Simon."
"Not an issue. I want us to be the best department we can be. That means everyone's got to live up to Ellison standards," he said dryly, making her cackle. He sipped his soda, watching her down her last beer. "You ready to head home?"
"Yours?" she teased. "I could use the stress relief."
"My son's over."
"Never mind. Maybe some other time?"
"Maybe," he offered, even though he knew he'd turn her down. "Come on, I'll drive you home, Cassie." She nodded, taking the folder with her. "We'll talk to the Chief and the Mayor in a few days, once you've talked to your people."
"That might be a good idea. I've got some change resistant folks in my lab."
"I've got Ellison, not much better."
"Good point." She punched him on the arm, making him wince. "Sorry, forgot you're a delicate man sort."
"That's all right." He took her home and dropped her off, heading for his own place to have dinner with his son and Dawn as it turned out. "Jim not home?"
"His ex called up and invited him out to dinner. Darryl said you wouldn't mind, or I can hit the mall's food court."
"Hush," he ordered, going to make dinner. "Darryl, what did your mother want?"
"Sanity and to tell me I can't date Dawn."
Dawn giggled. "Not my type," she assured him.
He grinned. "Friends are better anyway. Less drama."
"Oh, I have plenty of that at home," she assured him, making him laugh. "Did you meet Willow too?"
"He better not have," Simon called.
"I did that once when they were moving stuff," he reminded him. "You were there, dad."
Simon grumbled something. He did not like that sort of influence in his son's life. It was bad for him and his son's sanity.
Calleigh walked in the next day, giving Horatio a hug. "From Xander because you helped him with the scary gay thoughts enough that they worked it out together." She smiled and handed over a copy of the report she had given Cassie. "It's bad."
He looked at the index and winced. "It's very bad."
"I outlined a slower change to upgrade because they needed personnel upgrades too."
"I can see why." He looked at her. "You did tell Cassie about the processor problem?"
"Yeah, she said they had theirs fixed. I don't know how and it's still slower than molasses in their version of winter." She sat down, looking at him. "I told Simon and the Under Chief up there first then I took Cassie out to get drunk. It was kinder." She smiled. "She asked me if I was hitting on her because I patted her hand. I told her southern women were just more comforting."
He smiled. "You are. Alexx would've given her a hug." He put it down. "Are they going to take it?"
"They're going to have to take at least some of it. Oh, I helped Jim with his pastry case and the dinner with the boys was outrageous. Blair and Xander were telling me about Xander's first time on a real horse. He loved it, still does, but he was giggling madly about it too." He smiled at that. "So, I guess I'm back."
"I guess you are," he agreed happily. "And to a clear desk." She beamed. "Ryan filled in for you."
"That's just fine as long as he got the right answers." She stood up and gave him a hug. "Thank you for the vacation, Horatio."
"You're welcome." He watched her walk out much happier now. He emailed his boss that she was back and the evaluation had went well, she had given them a reasonable timetable for a new upgrade and what they needed. He went back to his own current case. It was good to see her so happy again.
Though he did want to hear about Xander on a horse for the first time so he wrote him too.
Tony looked up as the funny feeling started, frowning. He tapped his keyboard a few times before getting onto the Sorthes mailing list, finding a warning from Xander of all people. "Well, he'd know about danger." He read it and frowned. "Well, fuck," he muttered.
Gibbs looked over. "What?"
"Xander sent a warning."
Gibbs gave him a look then got into his email account to read it over. He considered it. "When?"
"Ten days? We'll need an assault force if he's right." He looked around then at the clock on his computer. "Boss, research permission?"
"Go," he ordered. "Come back in the morning." Tony nodded, grabbing things so he could head home. They didn't need to deal with a major, higher end demon that was the tail holder for Satan as Xander put it. It would destroy whatever city it went to. He knew it'd come for DC because Tony was here and so many minions to do his work for him. He sent back a request for more information from Xander and his Watcher contacts, telling him Tony was looking too. Xander sent back what he had about thirty minutes later, including a list of books, saying it was forwarded from Willow. Gibbs called Tony. "Willow forwarded what they had to Xander. It's on the list." He hung up, reading it over.
This was very bad.
Worse than terrorists.
This was something that Tony might have to be possessed to deal with again.
Tony initiated the conference call four days later. "Morning," he said grimly, not able to smile.
"It's heading for New York?" Mac asked.
"Yup," Tony offered. "We thought DC but you guys have your own spot of evil and plenty of minions. All my research backs up the Watcher's stuff. It's Satan's tail holder."
"I'm out of the loop," Horatio complained. "We've had horrible cases. I haven't gotten into even departmental mail in a week."
"Satan's tail holder is coming to reclaim some of his people," Xander told him. "We've got a multi-city assault, guys. The big guy's going to New York and he's got minions going as a distraction and to gather the lesser people."
"Wonderful," Ryan said dryly. "Are we getting action? Calleigh's only been back for three weeks and she's still a bit behind on her first case back."
"Secondary," Xander told him. "Tony, you're not getting primary or secondary action. Your minions there are giving them more power and leading to more worshipers and people who make deals. How do you want us to deploy?"
"I'm going to let you, Gibbs, and Horatio deal with that," Tony decided. "Mac, we'll get you up to speed. You lead the assault in your town and we'll back you up when we can."
"How long before it happens?"
"We found out four days ago," Xander told him. "Well, the Sunnydale crew did. They forwarded it to me. We've got six left."
"That isn't a lot of time to plan," Horatio noted.
"We saved the world from an ascension with a battle plan done the night before and the explosives thought up a week before that," Xander told him.
"That's beyond the fact that forecasting too much farther ahead would've interfered more with cases," Tony pointed out. "We just had all hell break loose in one of our Department of Defense contractors using Navy personnel. Ours are going to sit back and wave 'bye'?" he asked. "You're sure, Xander?"
"Yours make them have more power. The same as LA's not going to be bothered or touched from what we've heard. They get way too many people from both areas. Retrieving and making people pay up their soul tab isn't economically sound. It's what makes them money. That's what we've heard from some of the demons Anya and Spike know."
"How do we fight it?" Mac asked.
"I'm hoping for less than a _Ghostbusters 1_ all out assault," Xander told him. "We'll have big guy, little miniony guys, and then those they're retrieving who'll probably want to fight to stay or get out of their deals."
"The good news is that it only happens about once a generation," Tony offered at Mac's quiet swearing. "Maybe even as infrequently as once a century, Mac." He tapped a few keys. "I sent you what I've got so far, Mac and Horatio. Gibbs has a copy of my research and the Watchers' research. You guys plan and the rest of us need to figure out if and when we can get there. We do have one thing on our side. The rebrith and possession rates aren't known about by them as far as we can tell."
"Spike asked if one of his contacts had heard anything about the new Volka or the Sorthes since they had stolen me from the Slayer's side," Xander told him. "We're seen as weak, untrained, and Tony's seen as the weakest Volka in nearly eight hundred years. The one that Ancelin's husband took over after was also seen as weak because he didn't like to interfere. When it mattered he still kicked ass."
"Mac, I'll be up quietly within two days," Vorchain offered. "I helped during the last one to drive them off. It's almost impossible to kill them. There's a specific poison and it has to be brewed and made by pure witches."
"Willow's not pure," Xander noted. "What about my child?"
"Abby knows some too," Tony offered. "She even knows a nun who found the Goddess and switched."
"It still has to be delivered in a heart shot," Vorchain warned. "It's nearly impossible to do."
"We can try," Horatio told him.
"That makes us bigger targets," Kermit pointed out patiently. "That's why we've always went for driving off before. A door slammed somewhere around Tony. "Who was that?"
Tony leaned back. "Hey, Jeanne." He leaned closer to the phone again. "The girlfriend, guys. Horatio, we have six days."
"I'll be up there within four, Mac. Xander, call me with Gibbs. Let me brief Ryan with the files." He hung up.
Tony smiled. "Guys, meet you there or are you going to be hanging around?"
"Meet you there," Kermit agreed. "Possibly with a few Shao-Lin monks, possibly without. They're being a bit odd. Something's going on within their order."
"Could that be a distraction?" Mac asked.
"I'll point it out," Kermit agreed. "See you soon, Mac." He hung up.
"Me too, Mac," Tony promised. "Gibbs and I both, possibly with Abby, possibly not." He hung up and looked at Jeanne, letting the others make the plans. He could not plan an assault but he could lead one when it was given to him. "What's up?" He pulled her down to kiss her on the cheek.
"Problems?" she asked hesitantly. He nodded. "Bad ones?"
"If we don't stop it, something will keep going until there's no more worries about population overcrowding in the world. It'll take a few generations for total destruction if we can't stop it."
She sighed, sitting next to him. "Do you have time to talk?"
"We've got our planning people working on it. I can't plan battles, but I can lead one."
"You will be?" He nodded. "Why?"
He kissed her for real. "It's my duty, Jeanne. It's the group's duty to stop these things." He gave her a hug. "It'll be fine and we'll talk when I get back. I'll be okay and so will Gibbs and everyone."
She pulled back to look at him, shaking her head. "You won't, Tony. It's too big from the sounds of it."
He smiled. "Xander's handled worse with two girls, a vampire, and a librarian leading that group."
"Someone's got to do the research," Gibbs said as he walked in. "Who's planning?"
"Xander, you, Horatio. Mac's in the lead since it's his city. I'll lead one team, he'll lead one team. Don's still injured. Horatio and Ryan will lead another." That got a nod. "How fast can we clear?"
"Not. This is our distraction. Someone just admitted it to the Director." Tony groaned. "We're needed."
"I'm needed up there, boss. You can come up if you get free in time." He stood up. "I'll miss working with you if she fires me." That got a nod and a handshake, then Gibbs left. He looked at Jeanne. "I've got to pack, come help me?" She nodded, following him that way. She also helped him with some elemental stress relief after his bag was done. It was good for them.
Mac looked up as someone appeared in his office, dropping his bag so he could rub his wrist. "Painful flight?" he asked dryly.
Xander looked at him. "The shrinking spell didn't totally reduce the weight." He handed over the plans they had drawn up. "Arrange it for terrain." He leaned down to point at things. "We need two minor teams and one main assault team to get the big guy." He looked at him. Then he got into his bag and put the special padded box in front of him. "Vorchain sent Dawn the recipe. I poured it into the hot silver myself to make the impression and holding area." Mac looked at the bullets then at him. "It's got to be a heart shot," he said quietly. "I'm used to those."
"Gibbs and I were snipers," he admitted.
"Horatio's taken the training," he offered. He stood up. "That gives us six tries, Mac. If not, it'll still hurt him enough to banish him. Also, Gibbs is in the middle of a morass, his words, that was a distraction but it's too important to get out of. Too many personnel to leave hanging and in danger." That got a nod. "Tony's on his way. Horatio and Ryan. Vorchain. Blair. Kermit." That got another nod. "We need at least two others though."
"You'll have me and Danny."
"That's fine. We'll set teams. The two minor ones are minion elimination. All that takes is lead." He pulled out a few boxes and put them down too. "Self loaded and I know where to go to get them from the Watchers locally. They're about to run away."
"Go get your contacts, leave the ammo here," Mac told him. Xander nodded, heading out to do that. Mac put those into his locking desk drawer and finished his paperwork before going over the plans. Don walked in. "You should be in bed."
"Bite me." He took them to look at. "I need a slightly stressful position. No long runs."
"You're still healing."
Don looked at him. "So? It's as much my calling as yours, Mac." He stared him down but Mac shook his head. "I'm down to PT hours for clearance. It'll be fine."
"I don't want to lose you, Don."
"Awww, such mushiness," he taunted with a smirk. "You won't. I'll take Messer on my team. Stella too if we need her."
He stared at him. "You, Danny, Kermit take A team. Ryan, Xander, Blair, take B team. Horatio, Tony, and I will take the main force."
Don nodded. "Gibbs?"
"If he can. He's in the middle of the worst case."
Don grimaced but nodded. "Of course they planned it that way." Mac nodded. Danny walked in with Tony. "Welcome to my city."
"Thanks. You good?"
"Better," Don admitted. "As long as it's not a long run I'm good."
"That'll work," he agreed, giving him a one-armed hug. "Okay, what do we have?" Don handed over the plans and Mac got the bullets, letting them see it. "I'm on main team?"
"We might need the Ancestor's heft," Mac admitted.
Tony looked at him. "I'm also a fantastic shot, Mac."
"Good. We could use it." He leaned back. "You, me, Horatio." Tony nodded. "Danny, you, Don, Kermit." That got a nod. "Xander, Blair, and Ryan leading his." That got another nod from them. "Now all we have to do is wait."
Xander reappeared, panting and holding his side. "The minions are here." Mac groaned. "Sorry. One was interrupted killing the city's Watcher." He looked at Tony, then pointed at the boxes. "I made some with the poison. The heart is on the back." He looked at it then nodded at the placement on the figure drawing. "As far as the Watchers know. They did take out one before with a soaked stake."
"Gotta love 'em," Tony said dryly.
"Vorchain?" Don asked.
"Already here too. He's the one who told me to go. He was beating on the minion." He looked at them. "Teams?"
"You, Ryan, Blair," Mac told him. That got a nod. "Take it and go. What's in your bag?"
Xander grinned. "Toys." He walked off with his bag, going to find the others as they came in from the airport. He found Horatio and Ryan had met up with Blair by prior arrangement. "Ryan, Blair, you're on my team. We're hunting now." They nodded. "Horatio, Mac's office." That got a nod. "You're on the main assault I think."
"Agreed," he said, adjusting his badge when a guard looked their way, getting a nod. "Go. What do we have?"
"Mac does," Xander admitted. "And I've got stuff if we need it later." That got another nod and they headed out together. Xander looked at Blair. "I can hunt with Ryan if you want to go coordinate, Blair. That way you don't have to deal with the hunting stuff."
Blair looked at him. "I can watch your back if nothing else."
"Blair, this is kill or die," Ryan told him. "No wounding."
Blair nodded. "Then I'll go coordinate."
"Which is what we planned. If we get another person up, they'll come fill in on our team." They dropped him off and then headed out to where they knew things were going on. Vorchain gave them the monitors for the tagging he had been able to do. "Blair's coordinating," he said, giving him a hug. "How many?"
"Three, so far," Vorchain offered.
Xander nodded. "Thanks," he said, heading out with Ryan to find and hunt. He stocked up on things from his bag, stuffing his pockets, then Ryan's pockets. Not too much that they couldn't run but the standard cuffs, bits of rope and things that they'd need. Kermit, Willow, and Abby had been able to get a list of who in New York has made the dark deals and were probably on the menu. They went after them, following them to find them bothering others who were protectors and hunters. Ryan called that in to Horatio and they took out one of the demons. Two of them got away but the other hunters were told. They got nods and went to deal with the others they knew. Ryan and Xander had to hunt for now.
Don's team found one of their demons paused and waiting. He nodded for Danny's benefit, getting a nod from Kermit. They moved forward carefully, taking him down but he managed to stab Danny on the arm. Kermit had the antidote for the poison on his claws but it was not going to go well. Danny was fine by the time they had killed that demon so they moved on. They didn't have time to lose Danny for now. He could rest later.
Xander called in a problem. "Blair, me. Ryan was stabbed by one. I sent him to the ER. Told the paramedics we were up on vacation and he had been mugged. Yeah, just now. No, I'm going on. You stay there. Because, Blair, you can't hunt this way," he said calmly. "I've done it alone before. If he's here," he said, shrugging a bit. "That's where I am, yeah." He hung up and looked around, finding Jim parking up the street. "They were sending you to us?"
"Sandburg said your team was down because he couldn't stalk and hunt," Jim admitted. He took the special bullets from Xander. "Lead?" Xander nodded. "Okay, how many targets?"
"Seven," he groaned. "We had three and the last one called for reinforcements. So they're lesser minions and one upper minion." That got a nod. Xander showed him the tracking monitors. "One just stabbed Ryan in the stomach. He'll be fine tomorrow."
"We can hunt, Xander. My enhanced senses and your training and possessions work well together." He led the way off, sniffing where the demon and Ryan had fought. Then he followed the trail. He heard the monitor be shut off and put into a back pocket, then they were on their own. Xander kept up and it was a good hunt. They found that demon reporting in and Xander took him down brutally. Xander crushed the cellphone with his foot as they walked over the demon's deteriorating body. It would dissolve in minutes. Jim stretched his senses out, closing his eyes. He caught another whiff of brimstone scent like the one they had taken out and headed for it, Xander behind him and just as good as he was. Though Xander was purring a bit. He smirked at that. The kid's possessions were having a bad day.
Vorchain came into Mac's office. "We're down to nine minor minions and two upper, one for each team," he announced. "I tagged more for Jim and Xander." He looked at Horatio. "The big guy appears tonight." They nodded, taking the poison bullets and heading out with them and the guns Mac had borrowed from PD supplies. They headed out to the point where the minions had marked to call him. There weren't hardly any left and Gibbs was there. "Better late than never," he teased.
Gibbs looked at him. "I had my people at risk first, Vorchain. I had to save them then come here." He took Tony's rifle from him. "Guard. Get the other teams."
"Jim and Blair aren't answering," Mac told him. Gibbs gave him a look. "They're doing natural hunting. The other team is taking ten minutes to eat and change bandages on Don and Danny." Vorchain hissed. "Danny got stabbed by one. Don's still supposed to be on bedrest."
Tony pointed. "Minion." He pulled his silenced handgun and shot it, killing it. Don waved at that. "You done?"
"They all disappeared off our monitor," Don admitted, coming over. "I'm hoping they went for Jim and Xander but they're not answering a cellphone. Even Blair couldn't get them."
"Xander's a tough boy and he's done this for years," Tony said calmly. They looked as a glimmer started in the marked areas. "Guys."
Mac took the first shot. Nothing. The demon was still too incorporeal. Gibbs took it when he fully manifested. He flinched but laughed. Horatio took his. Still nothing. They reloaded and tried again but it wasn't working. "Is the heart off?" Mac asked.
"I knew the Watchers were idiots," Tony complained quietly. The demon continued to laugh.
"Oh, shut up!" Xander yelled from behind them. "Gods, you're more annoying than Glory's clothing issues!" He dropped his bag and pulled out two things, tossing a quickly expanding thing to Gibbs. "Always plan overkill. It's the Sunnydale way." He popped open his case and took aim, firing at the thing's chest. The missile exploded, spreading the poison, making the demon shriek. Gibbs fired off the second one and it went through him. It hit a tree. "Hell, Gibbs!" Xander pulled out a third one, a sword. "Tony!" He caught it and went to attack the higher demon while they took on the minions. Tony drove it back into the affected area, making it scream in pain as the poison ate into its back. Xander came out with something else, running past a few minions. One tripped him but Vorchain caught the thing he had been carrying, going to shoot it into him. Tony took it and hit the creature in the chest, where the heart was almost exposed through the burning skin. The demon shrieked, nearly shaking the ground, before disappearing.
Xander got helped up by Mac and turned to kick one of the minions into Jim's grip, letting him and Gibbs get it. He looked at Tony. "Good thing I came prepared."
Mac patted him on the back. "We still don't like you having artillery, Xander. You're a dangerous boy and you could hurt Cascade."
Xander grinned at him. "You say the sweetest things." Blair ran over to hug him, getting one back. "Hi." He beamed at him. "I got to shoot off the pretty baby this time, even if Gibbs did go through him." He looked at him. "That shouldn't have been that powerful."
"I shortened the range," he admitted. He looked away as Xander kissed Blair and walked him off. "I still want the rest of the artillery, Xander."
"Yes, mom," Blair called back.
"Sandburg!" Jim called. "I want him to have it too."
Blair and Xander looked back at them. "As long as I get occasional visit and petting rights," Xander told them, shrugging a bit. "The rest is in the bag, guys." He grinned and walked Blair off. "This hero needs a snog as Giles says." Blair hit him on the chest but let him get happy. It was good post-battle stress relief.
Don looked at Danny. "You still dizzy?"
"Yeah," he admitted, letting Horatio look at his arm. "I had the antidote. Twice."
Vorchain sighed, coming over to handle that one. Once he got it drained he looked at Don. "Take my grandson home. Engage in Xander-style post battle relief until you're both better and you're fit for duty." He looked at Mac. "You all right?"
"Fine," he admitted, sounding a bit tired. "It's been a long day." They all nodded and he looked at the mess. "We've got to clean this up."
Dawn coughed, coming out of the woods. "Shoo. Move. Out of my way." They fled, taking Xander's bag with them, along with the other weapons they had left lying around and the airgun that had injected a full vial of the poison into the head demon's heart. She raised her hands and looked up then at them. A light grew between them and the ground opened, swallowing the demons' bodies. She put down her arms, dusting off her hands. "There, no messy fires this time." She smiled and came over to hug Mac. "Because you need it." He smirked at that and she hugged Tony. "You look nearly as hot as Xander with a sword." He laughed and the family walked off together, going to celebrate the win and check on Ryan since he was still in the emergency room.
Tony walked into work four days later, blinking tiredly at Gibbs. "Jeanne likes me being manly and good," he said dryly, flopping down in his seat to put his feet up on a bottom drawer. "Any case yet, boss?"
"Not yet but you're grounded to desk duty until the Director debriefs you."
Tony looked around then behind him then at his boss. "Works for me. I'm too tired to pounce and chase some running scumbag today. Much too calm and mellow." He grinned at McGee. "Did you miss me?"
"Nope." He sat down, smirking at him. "Pot brownies?"
"Girlfriend. Always better and you don't pop positive on a drug test." He gave the director a half-lidded sleepy look. "You wanted to know what happened?"
"You left during a case."
"You'd rather the world was put on the treadmill to hell?" She gaped. "Xander's phrasing. He put it best when he and Blair got done with their post-battle stress relief." He blinked. "We did what we had to do, Director. The same as we do here every day. Only this time there's less paperwork and there's no dirtbag to put in jail. If you need specifics, we'll give you the research we did." She huffed off. He waved. "Have a good day." He looked at Gibbs, then back at his sword when the new imp showed up. He stabbed it and then sat back down feeling better. "Ah, back to normal."
Gibbs shook his head. "Get rid of that, DiNozzo."
"On it, boss," he quipped, banishing the stupid thing. Homer came up to pout at him. "Don't have any, Homer. Go mug McGee for treats." He went to do that, literally. He left McGee on the floor with his pockets turned out and looking very messed up. Tony giggled. Yup, things were back to normal and the world wasn't going to hell anymore. At least not at the moment. Tomorrow...... Well, tomorrow was tomorrow.
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