Taking The Initiative.
"Mr. Harris," an older man said quietly as he walked up to the young brunette at the bar.
"Shut up," the brunette growled, glaring at him. "There's no one here by that name and you're bothering me."
The older man stepped closer, still looking calm. "They're not here at the moment, that's why I am, kid."
"And you can go to hell. Whoever you are." He stared him down. "Go away, now, please."
"I can't do that, not yet. We need to talk. When's a good time for you?"
"Your assignment six years ago." The kid stiffened. "Anywhere you feel comfortable," he offered quietly. "I don't need to get into a screaming match here, and neither do you, for the same reason."
Xander finished his beer and paid the bartender, then nodded and headed outside. He noticed the older guy followed him. "Mall, two hours. Capitol side." He got into his car and took off as quickly as he could.
Gibbs nodded, just taking a few deep breaths. The kid knew why he was there. He wasn't some kid without a clue, as he'd been led to believe. So his current assignment just got thirty times harder. The rest of his team was going to love working with this one. He went to his own car and got in, going to stake out the meeting place, as he was sure the kid was doing. Because there's no way that kid wasn't fully trained nearly as well as his own team was.
Gibbs saw the kid get out of his car finally and got out as well, walking over to him, glancing around. He nodded for the boy to follow him, leading him to a small bench near a fountain. "I'm Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, NCIS," he said once they sat down. "I know who you are, Mr. Harris, and why you're in my territory. Now I've got to become involved because they assaulted another Marine and stole some ordinance from Norfolk."
Xander slumped a bit, nodding finally. "The ordinance is at the warehouse on sixteenth. The guy was a pity but those of us in the group had to prove we were with them." Gibbs looked startled at that so he glanced at him and smirked. "I left him sore and bruised, bleeding lip and stuff, but not dead. That was the two guys after I walked off. Henderson. Nevadin. Prescott was watching," he offered quietly. "Marshall expressed doubts about whether or not all of the things they had on file were worthy targets, that some seemed fairly weak and non-violent." He stood up and looked at him. "You should also be aware that you've got a leak," he said quietly, then he walked off whistling and smiling. He had seen one of his fellow Initiative agents driving past and nodded with a wink and a smirk at him when he drove past a second time. The guy pulled up beside his car. "Just a talk."
"Seeing if our mole is working. I thought, since he's got multiple awards for being so good, we should be able to play him," he noted dryly.
"Your job isn't to think, Condry. Your job is to do as ordered."
"Which is nice, but he's a good buddy for after-hours. He can actually beat me at cards," he smirked, which made the other agent growl. "It's mutual use and our present mole is feeding us inaccurate information. I found that out just googling his name." He pulled out his keys. "Tell Her Highness I said that and that I'm playing him at the moment to see if there's anything else they know. If she doesn't like it, she can tell me personally."
"Fine. What branch was he?"
"Marine. He's a sniper. It suits my own abilities. After all, it's not like *you* could string him along. He'd never want a little bottom slut like you." The man glared so he smirked. "He wouldn't. He'd need someone who at least played the fighting back game. When and if I have to do that for the unit, I'm better suited with my history." He got into his car and rolled down his window. "I'm going home. Have fun interrupting her pleasure tonight." He started his engine and headed out, going home. It was a cover that would save his own ass easily enough and their mole wasn't exactly efficient. He had missed a lot of information Xander had considered important, like the fact that THE BEST investigator of NCIS was now onto them. Along with a former Mossad agent who worked for him. His home wasn't that far away so he got there quickly and went upstairs, finding said agent in his apartment. "Honey, not my type," he noted dryly, looking her over, then into her eyes. "Get out."
"No. We need to talk."
"Really?" He walked over and picked up something, holding the small listening device up. "Last I knew, pros didn't work door-to-door or break in. So just go, talk to your daddy or pimp or whatever you wanna call him." He opened the door and handed her the bug with a smirk. "Now." She stomped off and he slammed the door, doing his usual surveillance search. The rest were still in place and the slimline camera was still in the light fixture. Whoever watched that thing must have a bad headache by now since he had put in a halogen bulb. He took a shower and got ready for bed, coming out drying his hair off to the phone ringing. He picked it up. "Condry," he answered. He listened, then nodded. "First thing at ten." He snorted. "She wanted me to see a doc about my arm. Does she want me to cancel that? Then I'll be there after I do the prior objective she gave me. Thank you." He hung up and climbed into his bed naked. No sense not making the watchers uncomfortable. He was having great fun fucking with their minds while he undermined the new Initiative. By the time he was done, it'd only take a small shove in a few areas and they'd topple down while he was outside and safe. Unlike last time. Even if he did have to work in an NCIS agent to his plans.
Xander presented himself to his boss's secretary. "Rory Condry, reporting as ordered with medical workup and for the interview portion of this very fun event," he noted dryly.
"Go in. She's expecting you."
"Joy. Is there coffee for when I'm done?" he muttered. She nodded and he grinned. "Thank you." He walked in after a quick knock on her doors, and walked over to hand her the medical reports he had to get done. "There you are, ma'am. The doctor said the poison was fully gone and my reflexes in that wrist are normal once again."
She read it over, then looked at him. "I didn't know you were gay, Condry."
"I'm not. In the past I did experiment and had some forced on me," he noted bitterly. "Therefore I feel more capable of playing Agent Gibbs than most of the other guys, who'd freak if it got that far."
"I see." She put it down and looked him over, noticing his reaction to her attention, then smirked at him. "You find me attractive, or is the power?"
"I refuse to answer that on the grounds that either one I say is likely to get me shot," he noted dryly. He stared at her. "Ma'am, we both know that you need me a hell of a lot more than I could ever want you. You may be pretty and powerful, but I don't need that during an assignment."
"Good. I like that attitude. The video surveillance team noted you've brought home a few prostitutes."
"Easier and safer than picking up in a bar," he noted dryly. "Also cheaper in the long run."
"Also quite true at times," she agreed. She stood up. "You think our information is false?"
"The information packet that was handed around only had half his awards, commendations, and medals listed. It also had an error in how long he had been in service, who was on his team, and his background as a sniper. Another commonality that we have," he noted patiently. She moved around the desk and he turned to face her. No one stood behind him anymore. "We also have an information lag. It wasn't noted he was onto both the assault and the weapons theft but that's why he approached me last night."
"I see. So last night was the first?"
"Yes, and I led him on a merry dance about duty, honor, and necessity," he noted dryly, smirking at her. "We established a rapport."
"Good. Continue that. It can't hurt and if anyone says anything...."
"I can beat their ass?" he broke in.
"Lightly. We don't need anyone off duty, Condry."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, saluting her. "Anything else, ma'am?"
"Work on the training profiles. We're behind and missing some areas we need to work on."
"Ma'am, with all due respect, you need higher thinkers in that area. You've got a lot of grunts who'll do as a front line, but you don't have a field general who can give orders or do what's necessary. Soffeson is good, but he's squeamish. Tetra is better but still squeamish. If you're going to win this war and capture all the hostiles to enforce their cooperation and training, you'll need someone who isn't. You might think about recruiting. Gibbs might work there," he offered quietly. He stepped closer. "He's obviously trained his team and he's sent them into danger multiple times. If he works out and joins, he could be an asset there, not just in information gathering."
"Do you think you can recruit him?"
"I'm not sure yet, but we did have the same ideas. He's not over-confident and he wasn't onto the whole 'humans are better' thing that the rest of the guys have, but he understands necessity and having dirty orders by his background. I think that's the way to go if you want to recruit him. Showing him how necessary it is."
"By his file, he doesn't believe in this community, Condry," she noted with a smirk.
"All you have to do is show him it's real. It's hard to refute a vampire trying to eat you. Or a demon trying to slime you and gum you to death."
"Point. Be very careful. He's earned his many commendations and awards over the years for a reason."
"I know and I don't trust anyone." He nodded and she nodded, so he left. He smiled at the secretary, taking the cup of coffee she held out. "Thank you, dear. Anything that comes down the line on Gunny LJ Gibbs, I need it. I've been ordered to recruit." She nodded, making note of that. "Thank you." He headed down to the training area to get back to work on the training he was supposed to be doing. Even if he was teaching them backwards. Very few of his grunts had caught on that they were using the wrong methods on some of them. Those few had been promoted out of training and into an assault team. That gave them the better opportunity to die. He sat down to watch the tapes, sipping his needed coffee, watching what was going on. Well, the staking lesson was going well, which he couldn't really get around, and the self-defense lessons were going okay, but the weapons drills are going abysmally, which was his full intention. It made him happy with his plans going so well so far. His phone beeped and he hit the speaker button. "Yup?" he answered.
"You're recruiting Gibbs?" another female voice asked.
"I'm seeing if he can be, and if so doing it. Why?" He finished his coffee, listening to her huff. "Again, why?"
"I don't think it's possible."
"I don't think he's going to share the sentiment some of the guys have about humans being superior, but I think he'll see the necessity of doing bad things for a higher reason. He's had orders to get dirty in the past."
"Fine. If you think you can, more power to you. Do you need to know what I've got on him?"
"Please. There were some inaccuracies in the information file." He smirked at her muttered swearing. "I googled. Don't worry, he came up to me last night in the bar." He hung up and got back to work, watching the weapons drills. Within weeks this new group would need to go to an assault team or be removed from the unit and their memories erased. Only the best got to go on and he's the one who decided who was the best. Plus, maybe he'd convince their boss to get rid of both the commanders over the assault teams. They weren't good but they were decent enough to cause his plans problems.
Xander got home that night and found someone in his apartment again, this time it was Gibbs. He looked around, then up at the light. "They're going to be very pissed at you for that."
"I don't like surveillance equipment unless I put it up. I told them that." He pointed at the kitchen. "I brought beer."
"Beer good," he agreed, heading to get one. He came out and ran his own scanner, which picked up magical surveillance as well. Then he put it next to him on the couch. He looked at the older man, taking in the graying hair, the fire in those icy blue eyes, the hardened body. "Sorry."
"Not a problem. Been there, done that," he admitted dryly. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. The poison is out of my system," he offered with a small smirk. "How's your person who tried to ruin your fun last night?"
"Fuming, a lot. It took me a bit to calm her down last night, so thank you for that too."
"Sorry." He shrugged and sipped the beer, smirking at the taste, then pulled him closer and kissing him, forcing the truth serum laced beer into his mouth. "Don't do that to me."
"I had to," he offered quietly, shifting closer. "Who are you working for?"
Xander smirked and stroked the side of his cheek, then smacked it hard. "Don't ask me those questions. You know the answer and I can't answer that further until you make a decision or not, LJ." He looked alarmed and Xander smirked. "I did get given the opportunity to take you out tonight and show you some of the sights we've discovered. You up for a night on the town? Or are you tired already?"
Gibbs moved closer, whispering in his ear. "Were you ordered to recruit me?" Xander smirked and shrugged a bit but his amusement clearly said yes. "Suggested?" Xander nodded. "I see. For?"
"Training," he whispered back. "For the good fight against those things that could save a lot of soldier's lives." He smirked at him and winked. "If you want, I can bring you out tonight and then we can talk once you're over your shock."
Gibbs considered it, then nodded. "Okay. Let's see what you've got to show me. I know you've been checking on me. Someone in the FBI called to say my personnel file had been hacked."
"That wasn't me. Hacking I am not," he said fondly, standing up. He left the beer and the bug detector there, hauling him up and close against his chest. "Follow my lead exactly later. It's necessary and important," he ordered in a deadly calm voice. "Understood?" Gibbs nodded. "Good. Then come on. We'll go have some fun." He walked out with him, taking him to one of the vampire clubs he knew about. Gibbs looked alarmed so he winked and then at the bartender, who he *knew* was a plant from Gibbs' own department. She was too normal and still human. He walked him over to get a beer, winking at her. "Morning, beauteous one. Your fair skin blushes so very well." He took his beer and out onto the floor, leading Gibbs to the darker corners. Where he waited. One of the vampires came strolling over a few minutes later and sniffed him, moaning a bit. He teased the vampiress' face, making her purr. "Go grrr for me, baby, and have a snack?" he purred in his best purr-kitty/content voice.
She changed and Gibbs flinched so he grabbed his wrist. "Such a pretty little vampy vamp," he cooed. "Your demon is so small." She glared at him so he smirked. "Morning, precious. Recognize me now?" She whimpered and backed off so he grabbed her, pulling her against his chest like he had Gibbs. "Out back, now. You're going to be a demonstration model." She whimpered and looked around. "Do you think they'll save you? I'll let you live, this time, as long as you hurry away." She nodded and let him lead her out with Gibbs behind them. "Go ahead and examine our helpful vampire, LJ. That's why she's still living. Kinda." He finished his beer, leaning on the wall of the next building. He had a good view of the whole alley from his position.
Gibbs ran a hand over her forehead ridges, then forced her lip up to look at her teeth, giving one a tug. She tried to bite him so he glared and she let out a small sigh, letting him do whatever he wanted. Including check for a pulse in multiple spots and see if he could feel a heartbeat. "Need me to bend over so you can see if the other entrances are cold too?" she asked impatiently.
"Only if you're going to play the stake game with me," Xander noted dryly. "I've got a lovely holy-water soaked stake that's shaped *just* right," he offered with a smug look at her. "Now behave, precious."
"Yes, sir," she whispered, letting Gibbs look her over again. "Is he a newbie?"
"Just to this field. I'm doing show-and-tell and then it's his turn," Xander told her. She nodded and Gibbs stepped back. "Satisfied?" He got a single nod. "Scram, precious, before I find out if my stake fits you." She hurried off, heading down the alley and out into the city. He gave Gibbs a look. "So."
"Why?" He looked around then moved closer. "She was a what?"
"Vampire. Fairly young. Most of them would've growled more. Probably only a few weeks turned." He looked him over, then into his eyes. "She's super strong, super fast, can be trained fairly easily, broken even more easily, and would save thousands of lives by taking the place of a few soldiers during night assaults." He toyed with the bottle. "That's a higher cause for both of us, right? Doing the right thing for our soldiers?"
Gibbs swallowed and nodded. If he didn't know the kid was acting, he'd believe his spiel. He'd believe that he believed that. "Okay, I can accept that reasoning, but I'm not fond of it."
"Me either, but a life saved is a life saved, right LJ?" He stroked his cheek. "Your turn."
"What do you want to know?"
Xander smiled and winked. "Everything."
"That I can't give you."
"No, but you can give me some things." He moved closer and whispered in his ear, getting a shiver and a nod. He glanced at the car parked at one end of the alley. "We should go somewhere less watched. I hate being watched when I'm working or playing. Sleeping I could care less about but working or playing is different."
"I have a house."
"Good. That's a nice start. We should go there." He smiled at him. "After you? I don't like people behind me anymore."
"I can understand why." He touched a bite mark on his neck, getting a flinch and a move away. "Sorry. Just checking."
"Understandable, but still. Don't." That got a nod and they walked back to the car together, Xander ditching the beer bottle in the dumpster as they passed by it. "The bartender was pretty, wasn't she? I'd hate to see her turned since she's still alive. The goth population keeps getting narrower and narrower every year. It's sad to lose the individualists in the world."
"It is," he agreed, tapping something in his pocket, his mic. Someone would call Abby and tell her to get out of there now. "I have access to a safehouse if you'd feel more comfortable. We're not using it tonight."
"Either's good for me, as long as we're not watched."
Gibbs nodded. "Okay." He got in, Xander handing him the keys once he was in there. He glanced around, noticing the spots that had been touched. He glanced at him and got a nod. "You weren't kidding, they are paranoid," he noted as he started the car.
"The higher the stakes, the worse the paranoia," he offered quietly. "Do you blame them?"
"No. Not with those ideals." He pulled into traffic.
Gibbs' backup tossed down his headset. "Damn it, they've got a blocker put in the car."
The woman from Xander's the night before looked at him. "We still have GPS, Tony. Calm down. Abby's on her way out." He nodded and calmed down. Once Abby got in, they followed Gibbs to the safehouse they had assigned him for the night, just in case he needed it. She listened to the feed. "They've got dueling bugs," she announced.
"Wonderful," he said grimly, taking a corner sharply. "We're being followed."
"I had hoped you weren't turning into Gibbs behind the wheel," Abby told him. She grabbed onto the overhead bar when he took another sharp corner. "Easy, Tony, the equipment," she complained.
"Sorry." Not that he was, but he needed to be there to save Gibbs from that kid. Before he got sucked into something worse by his own design. There was something wrong with that kid. He pulled out his cellphone earbud and stuck it in, then hit the button for their other team member, who was back at headquarters. "Talk to me," he ordered. "What do you have on that guy?"
//First, I can't identify three of the bugs we pulled out of his apartment. They work on wavelengths I'm not familiar with and aren't in the system or in the official database. One's clearly a dummy, it's got putty inside it, Tony. Second, he's not who he says he is. There's a SSN in that name and other pertinent records but a deeper check shows nothing and no one behind it. Odd thing was, when I went looking for a birth certificate, I couldn't find one at first, and then it suddenly appeared when I tried a second check. I'm not so sure he's not one of us, Tony.//
"I doubt it. He laid a kiss on Gibbs for show," he complained. The guy on the other end spluttered. "You do what you have to for the assignment, McGee. Anything else of interest?"
//Yeah, two things. The one with putty is still radiating on a wavelength I'm not familiar with. I don't know how but it is. The others are on the same wavelength. Also, if we have a mole, they're very good. I can't find a hint of them.//
"Keep looking and keep checking to see who he might have been. Was it a legal change?"
//Not that I can find and I can't find anything out under that older name Gibbs gave me either. I almost got a hit off the file name but that put up a wall pretty fast within the Pentagon and I'm not sure if I should try to hack it because they'll try to take down our system if I'm caught.//
"Just hint around the edges where you won't get into trouble, McGee. Call me if you figure out that wavelength issue or find anything. We're nearly at the safehouse."
//Yes, Tony. Are you guys okay?//
"So far. Thank you for asking, so's Abby." He hung up and glanced at her. "One of them had putty inside but it was radiating on a wavelength he's never seen before."
"What wavelength?" Ziva asked.
"One that's not in the database you gave us," Tony assured her. "He's already checked." He parked up the street from the safehouse, just close enough in case they were needed but far enough away that they wouldn't be spotted. Only their bugs were inside since the other people couldn't be sure where they'd end up.
Ziva frowned and pressed her hand against her left earphone. "Tony, listen to this?" He grabbed his set and listened, looking out his binoculars at the window that just had lights go on. Then he and she both grabbed their headphones and ripped them off. You could hear a high shrieking noise even when they were on the floor. "What is that?" she demanded.
"A jammer," Abby said, coming back to replay the tape. "That's Latin." She bit her bottom lip and reran it, then plugged it into a translator. "Half the words don't come up in the standard Latin dictionary, Tony."
"Are you saying it's code?" he asked hopefully.
"Considering the words that came up are things like stone wall, fire, and hammer, no." She looked at him. "There were some unliving people in that bar. He took him out to the alley to prove that to him." Tony sighed and slumped, shaking his head. "There were!"
"I'm not doubting it, Abby, but I don't want to think about it."
"Unliving people?" Ziva asked, looking confused. "How can they be unliving? Were there corpses littering the bar? In Israel we bury them, we don't decorate with them," she defended when Tony and Abby both looked at her.
Tony groaned and shook his head. "Not now, Ziva. Everything's going to be explained further later. Let's just say we worked on this case after the fact the last time."
"Please don't remind me," Abby moaned. "There were parts that I couldn't identify in that bunker." She held her stomach and kept her stomach contents where they were by sheer will. "Is he gonna be okay, Tony? I know this is Gibbs, but this is strange stuff that he doesn't like to believe in until he has to."
Tony nodded. "This is Gibbs, Abby," he noted calmly. "It's going to be a long time coming before anything gets the better of him and he's going to be more ancient than Ducky's mom." She nodded and hugged him from behind the seat. "Just relax and see if you can pull up the old files by remote in case we need 'em."
"They're at home. Should I head there?"
"We'll head there later," he said quietly, watching through the binoculars. "They're sitting out of sight. The kid is good. McGee thinks he's working too."
"Damn," Abby moaned. "Just what we need."
Tony nodded. "Exactly."
Gibbs walked in and Xander finished his muttering, and his microphone went off. He tossed it back into the hall, glaring at him. "You didn't have to do that."
"Yeah I did. I have no idea who you have listening. It could be the mole or that tape could fall into their hands. I'm not risking my life for this meeting." Gibbs nodded and pointed at the couch. "Got any water?"
"Juice. Water from the tap."
"Juice is fine as long as it's not doctored."
"It's not, kid." He got him a juice and himself coffee from the pot someone had started for him earlier, bringing it over once his was warmed up. "Here." He sat down on the other end of the couch, looking at him. "My team worked the Initiative case after you and your team ended it the last time."
"Good. I know we left a mess."
"That's putting it mildly, Mr. Harris," he noted patiently, taking a sip of his nectar of the gods. "Even our ME, who's been in combat and worked in some of the worst areas in the world, got ill from the mess you guys left us." Xander shrugged and took a drink. "I understand why you did it though. For right now, is it the same team backing you?"
"More or less. We've lost some support members over the years."
"Understood," he agreed. He finished his cup of coffee. "I promise, no drugs."
"No, the stuff earlier didn't sit well. Sorry." He finished his juice and relaxed. "Okay, what I'm going for is to recruit you. I could use backup. You could use an inside guy who can get you what you need. Personally, I'm in training," he said with a smirk. Gibbs smirked back. "When the question came back earlier, I told them it was a 'whatever works for the assignment' situation coupled with some past experimentation willingly and not. That was enough for them and they're going to leave me alone about it. But I could use it and you could use it. Again, I don't know or trust your team, even if you do. Even if you keep all the records in your house, that doesn't mean my people and your people won't get into it."
"Good point," he agreed. "I'd be paranoid too. Where is your backup team?"
"Cleveland," he noted dryly. "We got word they were going again and I was sent to stop it."
Xander nodded, grimacing a bit. "Yeah, by myself." He shrugged. "I'm handy that way. What else did you expect? Hence me wanting backup at the moment. Her Highness is not a happy camper."
"Your director's female?" Xander nodded. He pulled out his wallet and showed him a picture. "That her?"
He looked and shook his head. "No, ours is a brunette. Looks kinda similar to that one," he noted, tapping another picture. "If you had searched my house, you would've found Willow's surveillance portal and then you could get pictures off her."
Gibbs shook his head. "The same Willow as in the file?" He nodded, grimacing a bit. "Okay." Someone was walking up the stairs so he grimaced. "Not mine. Mine are quieter."
"Uh-huh." Xander looked that way and muttered something else, making someone shriek at the giant rat and run away. "You sure about that?"
"Okay, so Ziva needs some subtlety," he admitted dryly, shrugging a bit. "She's new."
"Not that new."
"No, not that new, just new to my standards." He looked at him. "If and when I take up this idea of yours, how are you doing things?" Xander pulled open his shirt and handed him a small gold diskette off his chest. "What's this?"
"Portable and unfindable. You should be able to hack into it. Willow said one of your guys has run into her stuff before and they've got a hate/hate relationship." Gibbs smirked a bit at that. "It helps at times. So, yes?"
"If possible. Any idea who our mole is?" Xander shook his head. "How badly did they get me?" The diskette was pointed at. "Okay. It's all on here?" Xander smirked at nodded. "And where do we stand?"
"Whatever it takes for the mission, LJ. Whatever it takes for the mission." His bite mark was touched again so he grabbed the fingers and squeezed. "That's off-topic."
"A bite mark? Consensual?"
Gibbs nodded, leaving it there. "Okay. Can you handle whatever it takes?"
"It's not the first time."
"Okay." He stood up. "I should go. You need a ride home?"
"Not yet." He looked at him. "Your team, how do I know enough to trust them? Ziva's not very competent and we're dealing with things that're better left sleeping. They tried to take on a major demon the other day and failed. Even with me giving orders, they failed. You'd be over training. 'Cause they need it. Also, the guys who used ta be there?" he offered with a smirk and tapped his head. "Talk to the brain."
"I'll see what I can do about that for you, Rory."
Xander smirked and nodded. "Thank you, LJ."
"Welcome. Do you hate my name?"
"Yup. Sorry. Hate my name too." He stood up and grinned at him. "I hate all names. Names are powerful things that you don't want to give anyone." He patted him on the cheek. "Now I'll go home and have happy dreams because by now they've replaced all the surveillance equipment, including the magical ones." He opened the door and waved a hand. "Shall we?"
"I'll give you a ride back, Rory."
"Danka." He followed him out, closing the door behind himself. He skipped down the stairs, nodding at the resident who was still shrieking about the giant rat. He looked then at her. "I think it's hiding again. You can run home now." She ran up the stairs, scurrying like the image of the rat he had created. "Will they be okay?"
"They'll be fine. Tony was around then," he admitted dryly. "You think you could use another good guy if I can talk him into it?"
"I think I can," Xander admitted with a small smirk. "We'll have to see where though. Plus I'd need permission. Maybe in recruitment. Someone really does have to look at incoming guys better. We keep getting thugs without brains recently." He shrugged. "Lots and lots of lacking of smarts. I'd rather have guys who can think on their feet than not in the field. That's why I've got such a high fail rate for training."
"Me too. It took me years to get my team trained," he noted, getting into the car. He waited until Xander got in then drove him home, noticing he pulled out another sweeper to do the car. This one was a matte black, the other had been silver. "They took the last one?"
"They do that a lot for some reason. Apparently they don't like the fact that I don't like to be watched while I'm eating and shitting." He shrugged and grimaced. "I could care less if you watch me sleeping but I do have my limits otherwise. But SHE demands it for all off- base personnel's living quarters. You get used ta it." He tossed the four he found out of his car window and grinned at him, taking the keys when the car was parked. "Thank you, LJ. It was an exciting night. Just let me know what you need as a recruitment bonus, okay? We reward loyalty." He stroked his cheek then got out and headed upstairs while Gibbs was blatantly picked up by his second, Tony. Xander waved and shut the bottom door before heading upstairs to his apartment. His bug finder was still on the couch, but he had the other one with him. It was still higher than that one and it found a few he hadn't suspected before, but they were new. He hadn't had groceries before he left. Since he did now, someone was being nice to him. He stripped off and went to take a shower then head to bed. He waved at the new camera. "Night, watcher buddy. Have good fun watching me nap." He curled up on his side, smirking since the guy would have to watch his naked ass sleep all night.
Gibbs walked them into another safehouse that wasn't in use, one he had borrowed for the night from Fornell, his contact in the FBI. He turned to look at his team. "Ziva, you were loud when you came up the stairs. Tony, remember the file?" He nodded. "He's here alone. Talk to Rosenburg. She's in Cleveland. McGee and she have tangled a few times." He held up the disk to Abby, who squealed and took it to coo and pet. "It's got a lot of information." He looked at Tony again. "I'm in if I want it," he said quietly. "So are you possibly."
"I'm there, boss," he agreed. "I don't like you being in there by yourself. The same as I don't trust the kid after what we saw after the last case."
"What last case?" Ziva asked.
Abby looked at her. "Ever hear of someplace called Sunnydale?"
"Boca del Inferno," she said dryly. "It's a legend."
"No," Tony said, looking at her. "It's not. The kid from earlier grew up there. He took down this unit once before, Ziva. We've still got the files from it at home." He looked at Abby, then at their boss again. "They need me?"
"They need someone to recruit better people. He said he's gotten a lot of thugs. He's over training," he said smugly. "Also." He pulled out his wallet and handed it to him. "He said their Madam Director looked like her," he said, tapping the picture he had of Kate. She had been their coworker before she had been killed. Ziva was her replacment. "Brunette and looked closer to her than our Director. Plus we've got a leak. All the information they gathered is on there. I'm guessing it was encoded by Rosenburg since he mentioned her by name."
"Cleveland?" Tony muttered. "Why Cleveland?"
"Easy, that's where the newest hellmouth is," Abby said dryly. "They're all there now. Or didn't you see where Sunnydale fell in?"
"I did, I was hoping it took all them with it," he noted bitterly. She shook her head. "The mouthy little blonde brat?"
"Is the same age as the kid is, twenty-five," Abby reminded him. She looked at Gibbs. "We've got to brief these two, boss. McGee wasn't around then either."
"I realize that, Abby. Get the files and do that. If you have to, prove it to them." He looked at Tony. "He's here alone," he noted quietly. Tony tensed up and glared. Gibbs nodded. "They sent him to handle it. Also, find out what's wrong with his left eye."
"Missing," Abby told him. "Right before the town got sucked in."
"Not listed," she noted dryly. "That webpage got dumped right after that. The owner and author died in the last assault."
"Interesting. See if it relates, find out who is running this shit, I wanna know by lunch if possible." She nodded. "Also, Willow has magical surveillance. Get it if possible."
"Yes, Gibbs." She looked at Tony. "Will you be okay? You had a bad reaction to the demons last time."
"I'll be fine if you will," he promised. He glanced at Ziva, then at their boss. "It's gonna be a lot of proof, boss. Find the folders tonight and prove it tomorrow?" That got a nod. "Then I'm there, tell me what I need to do." He tugged on Ziva's arm. "Come on, it's time for everyone to go home. Abby, eightish?"
"Eightish is good with me. I'll get McGee out of the lab too." She looked at Gibbs. "Any other orders?"
"Not yet. For now, we wait. Tony, anything for the assignment," he noted quietly. That got a nod and they headed out, him remembering to lock the door so he didn't hear about it from Fornell for breakfast.
Tim McGee looked at the new diskette Abby held out in her hand, then at her smile. "What won't I like?" he asked without having to be prompted.
"Someone who is a hacker, and a very good one that you don't like a whole lot, did this disk."
"Which one?" he asked, taking it and inserting it into his special drive. It came up and he groaned. "Oh, not her," he complained, looking at Abby. "Why her? Why Rosenburg?"
"Because Gibbs' contact knows her. And this stays here, Tim." She moved closer and whispered in his ear, making him go stiff. She patted him on the back. "Okay?" He looked at her and shook his head. "You know?"
"My sister's with them," he growled, standing up to look at her. "I know the asshole." She smirked. "Why is *he* here?"
"To fix this situation. Like they did a few years back," she noted patiently, yet very quietly.
"I already searched for bugs, Abby." He hit himself on the head. "Did Rosenburg make any of those bugs?"
"Not sure, but they've got the same sort of people," she offered.
"No wonder the one with the stuff that looked like putty worked." He sat down and hacked into the disk, using what she usually used. It was always a fight against her coding but eventually he got a directory. Now he'd probably have unencode each file separately. "We need this when?"
"By lunch and you've still got to be awake tomorrow."
"Yeah," he snorted. "Get me some coffee, Abby?"
"I promised you'd take a nap."
"Yeah, I will, when I've got this done." He frowned at her. "What's his phone number? He's got to have a passcode."
"Check your email, maybe she sent you one," Gibbs said from behind him, handing over a post-it note. "Our mole is on there, McGee. So are pictures of their upper management."
McGee checked his office email, then his RPG email, the one he used for his online gaming. That's where he found it. "I hate her," he muttered as he undid what he had done and typed in as instructed. Everything came up, including some files that had been hidden. "Can't we arrest her, boss?"
"No. Not right now, McGee. How did you know about this stuff?"
"My sister's in Cleveland," he said bitterly. "Guess who came to talk to her and pick her up," he said, hitting keys a bit harder than necessary. He turned to look at his boss. "Can I at least hit him a few times, boss? Please?"
"No. I'm sure your sister is safe, McGee."
"No, she's not! They've got her out hunting already!"
"So?" Abby noted dryly. "They'd have me out hunting by now too, McGee. So let's get back to work." She waved a hand at the computers. "Give us what we need to know so I can get in there and get my files on the last time we had to work with that group." He growled and got back to it, printing off all the pictures. "Damn, she does look like Kate," she murmured, gripping Gibbs' arm.
He patted her on the hand. "It's not Kate. Even if they can do that, it's not her, Abs."
"If you say so." She moved closer. "It's not a perfect match, but a damn close one. Do we have a dossier or anything?"
"Yeah, printing those now," McGee offered, printing the rest of the files. "Boss, we'll need more paper." Gibbs got some for him so he loaded it in, watching as everything came out. He looked at the name on the dossier, then at him, holding it up.
"Her cousin," Gibbs admitted. The door opened behind him and the director stepped in. "Madam Director," he noted dryly, looking at the information again. "How much do we have and what do I need to fill in?"
"We've got gaps but not huge ones," Abby admitted, glancing at their boss. Who just waved a hand. "No offense, ma'am, but are you wearing a wire?"
"No, nor am I the mole. Who hacked into our system earlier to look at personnel files, Jethro?" she asked, looking at him. He shrugged so she handed him something. He snorted and handed it to Abby, who giggled. "Who is that?"
"Rosenburg," McGee growled. "A bane on hackers everywhere."
"She's just playful and bouncy," Abby assured him, patting him on the back. He glared at her. "She is. I know Willow. She's a nice young woman, Tim."
"I don't care if she is! She's a menace with little self control! Have you heard about some of her accidents?" Abby nodded. "From the victims?"
"Yeah, I have. She turned me into a redhead and then a blonde before getting me right again," she admitted, smirking at him. Gibbs stared for a minute, then shook his head. "Exactly! I almost needed flowered dresses and *heels*, Gibbs. Heels! Those nasty things that ruin feet, ankles, and backs, and are uncomfortable! Real women go barefoot because they respect their bodies!" Tim nudged her and handed her a piece of the chocolate he had been nibbling on all night. "That's so sweet!" she cooed, hugging him. "It won't help you any, but it's very nice of you to share. Now hurry up, I need into my files." He finished everything, then waved a hand for her to get in there. She typed for a few minutes one handed while she nibbled with the other, hit a few last keys, the enter key, and then printed out the original files once the directory was now open. "There, voila! Open sesame."
"Thank you. Now copy it down so we can brief Ziva in the morning and finish McGee's briefing."
"I already ....whoa," he said, taking out a page to look at it. Then at Gibbs, pointing at it. Gibbs nodded. "They did what?"
"By themselves," Abby agreed, taking it back and putting it in its proper spot. "It was necessary." Everything but the video files were printed out and then copied onto a CD, and then she locked the directory again, handing everything she had to Gibbs. "Here you go. She'll freak majorly, boss," she said proudly.
"She knew what the hellmouth was," Tony admitted as he came in. He looked at the director, then at their boss, who nodded. "Good. Wonderful. Is she doing our surveillance backup, boss?"
"Ours, Agent DiNozzo?" the director asked him.
"Gibbs said if he goes in, I go in." He looked at Abby. "I can't sleep. Got anything I can do?"
"Tim's sister is in Cleveland with the rest of the girls."
"I'm so sorry," he sighed, shaking his head. "At least they've got backup now and it's not just a single girl, McGee. She'll be fine and live a long, fruitful life."
"Just like I am," Abby agreed proudly. Everyone stared at her. "What?"
"You're a what?" Gibbs asked.
"Special girl," she said with a smirk. She turned and went back to her computer. "Okay, analyzing this new video that we got off the special disc, I can see that they're doing the same thing, only now they're focusing on mental coercion and breaking for retraining instead of doing physical torture and testing this time. Nice change. I'm proud that they learned their lesson. And that's still a kiddie demon," she noted, making a note of that on the tape's comments section. She kept going. "Harris is...." She snickered and nodded, waving Gibbs closer while she replayed that video. "Look familiar, boss?"
"He's doing it backward," he said fondly. They shared a smirk. "He wants me in there too. With Tony doing recruitment."
"Works for me. He's right, you need more people who can think on their feet and not be thugs." He came over to watch, shaking his head. "That's .... Yeah, that'll work as a strategy. I'd still rather have backup again."
"Slayer?" Abby offered.
"No way in hell you're going in," Tony said, giving her a fond smirk. "Only one who's fully trained, dear." He looked at Gibbs, who had a raised eyebrow look aimed at him. "Tough! I'm not losing her to some random demon! Or a Marine who can't tell the difference." He looked at the video again. "Isn't that....." He pointed.
"Buffy," McGee said bitterly. "Why is *she* there and are we sure he doesn't know?"
Gibbs called. "Did your blonde friend come down, Rory?" He listened. "Yeah, she's on there. Date code, Abby?"
"January," he repeated. "Early January by the directory." He raised an eyebrow. "Okay that works for me. By the way, McGee wants to make sure his sister's fine." He listened and smirked. "Thanks, kid." He hung up. "She's fine. The last time he knew she was dating some thug of a biker badass, his words, and she was making him bake cookies with her. She's still listed as being in training, McGee. Anything else? I can get you the phone number."
"I have it but Buffy hates it when the girls get calls in. Apparently she's waiting and can't get a second phone line for herself or the girls."
"That can easily be rectified," Abby assured him. "When we're done, I'll go up and work with Willow on getting that stuff set up so they have multiple lines and all that stuff." She smiled at him. "Okay?" He nodded, giving her a punch on the arm. She beamed at him then at Gibbs. "How soon?"
"Possibly tomorrow. Officer David?" he asked their boss. Who shrugged. "I figured you'd know."
"If she's smart, she's sleeping, like you should be." She walked out.
Abby muttered and the woman fell asleep waiting for the elevator. "She'll be fine in a few hours," she said happily. "Anything else we can work on, Gibbs?"
"Yeah, anyone failed for training is mind wiped. Get me a list and figure out if we can break the blockage or if it's magic."
"Yes, boss," she agreed, going to hunt that down.
"We have a few lists, boss," Tony said, looking up from where he was browsing the new information file. He handed one over. "And that's where they're supposedly posted. We've got common bases."
"We do," he agreed, taking it to look over, then Abby snatched it and ran a check on anyone at those bases, pulling up a bigger list. She highlighted any names that they already had, then printed it for her boss, handing it to Tony. "Thank you, Abby."
"Anything else I can do?"
"Nap," Tony told her. "I'm not briefing Ziva about this crap." He looked at McGee, who had pulled up one of the video files to look at it, and now he was staring in fascinated horror. "That's why they stopped them," he said in his ear, making him jump. He looked at his junior agent. "That's one of the reasons why they stopped them, McGee. They're not doing the same thing this time that we're aware of." That got a silent nod. "Call your sister. Not even Buffy Summers can be up this late." He went up to his desk to work over the new information, and if he had to he had slept behind it before. He had worn a comfortably broken-in spot on his section of the floor.
Gibbs waited for Xander at their appointed meeting place, noticing the black eye when the kid got nearer. "What happened?"
"They decided you're the reason I'm not worthy. They're presently in the infirmary." He sat down next to him, then looked him over, before opening his jacket to show his wire. Gibbs nodded at that. "Sorry about the late call today. It's been a hectic day for my teams."
"I heard." He tipped his face off to the side. "That's gotta sting, Rory." He let his face go at the grimace. "What's up?"
"I'm getting pushed to get an answer. Our last head of training got eaten late last night." He scratched the back of his neck. "I could've sworn I told him how to deal with those demons but he went for a dart gun against something that had impenetrable skin." He shrugged. "Not really a loss." He shifted and looked around. He spotted a new watcher. "He's new, who is he?" he asked quietly, pointing at the car.
Gibbs looked. "FBI. Tobias Fornell. I've worked with him a few times. He's a bastard too." He shrugged and looked at the kid again. "I'll deal with him later and lead him off the scent. Any other reason this is so sudden?"
"Yeah, I need help with the latest crew that they sent me," he sighed, shaking his head. "Not a good soldier among 'em and they want me to turn them into killing robots of destruction. I'm not that good." Gibbs smirked at that so he shrugged. "I'm honest about my capabilities. I can't do the impossible and my director is barking up my backside about it. Since I'm so picky and I don't want to send kids out who're gonna die their first engagement she's gotten onto me about my fail rate. So she's pushing me on you and she agreed, in theory, that your second could help you if that's what you wanted as a recruitment bonus."
"Good. I'm still working my way around the subject with him," he admitted. "So far he's agreed, but he doesn't know the whole story."
Xander nodded. "They found the original file somehow. They think he already knows, the same as you do, LJ."
"I can't deny I was there at the cleanup. It was my team's case," he agreed bitterly. "They left a damn big mess for us to clean up and help cover up." Xander nodded at that. "Rory, were you there?"
"Cousin." He shrugged. "So, yes, no, you want more than one bonus? You're going to demand sex for a bonus?"
Gibbs smirked. "Tempting and we'll see, Condry." He stood up. "When and where?"
"Tonight, my place, the second's assistant is coming at nine."
"Deal. Do I need to clean all the bugs out first? They do irritate me."
"If you want," Xander agreed dryly, standing up and grinning at him. "You be safe, LJ. Be very, very safe." He glanced at Fornell again, then back at him. "And I mean that. By the way, tell DiNozzo that his ass is still hot and that *she* still wants him from the underground page I found a few days back. She's still drooling over him." He smirked and walked off. He loved to tweak the fact that Willow had said she'd cheat on Tara with Tony if he asked. She had even said she'd share Tara with Tony if he asked nicely enough.
Gibbs smirked and walked off, going to bait Fornell. "You taking a long lunch in the sun?"
"No. You went to the FBI safehouse you stole the key for and we got it on tape," he noted. He withdrew it before it could be grabbed. "I checked it myself when the report came that you had been in there. What the hell is going on?"
"Remember about six years ago and that case I had near LA? The one the wife we shared complained about for eight months? Well, they're back and they're recruiting," he noted patiently. "They're doing it for the right reasons this time."
"Oh, God, no," he moaned. Gibbs just nodded. "Fuck." He tossed over the tape, then started his car. "I don't need to know. Classify it that way please. By the way, Ducky said to tell you he had to sedate Ziva twice today. The first time wasn't strong enough and she got back up." He drove off.
Gibbs smirked and headed for his car. "Doesn't really surprise me. McGee's still probably throwing fits too." He got in and started it, heading for the office. He had a long night ahead of him. When he got back there, he found Ziva throwing a fit in the small park next to the building and Ducky trying to calm her down. "Sedate her again," he called as he got out of his car.
"I can't. It could cause irreparable harm, Jethro," he complained. "I've already given her the maximum dosage."
"This is evil and it's wrong! You should not desecrate remains that way!" she shouted. "It's wrong!"
"Evil is as evil does," Gibbs said calmly, finally making her look at him. "Right now, that evil is presently working on the theory of using those same walking remains as replacements for some soldiers."
"Are they counted as remains if they're walking?" Ducky asked.
"I'm not a theologian, Ducky," Gibbs shot back. "Well, Officer David? Are they?"
"It doesn't matter! You should still have respect for the dead!"
"Yeah, well, these are walking dead things. I'm not sure they think this is such a good idea either," he noted more quietly, moving closer. "But for right now, this is the case at hand."
"I want transferred temporarily," she said. "I can't work this."
"You don't have a choice in your assignment, Ziva," he said grimly. "The same as I don't." He looked over as Tony and McGee came his way. "Anything new?" Tony shook his head. "I've got a meeting tonight."
"Good. It'll be another long night then," Tony agreed dryly. "Ziva, this isn't as bad as it could be. This time they're not torturing them. Last time they did."
"A lot," McGee agreed bitterly. He looked at his boss. "My sister is fine, she said she's fine and she says you should beat my ass for being such a worrywart."
"That's a brother's right," Gibbs assured him.
"This is still a nightmare!" Ziva complained.
"No, a nightmare is me being invited to a park and meeting all the kids I could've fathered over the years," Tony said with a smug look. "I had a nightmare like that once, I showed up and there were billions and billions of little DiNozzos just staring at me then grinning back my goofy, happy grin and waving. Even though I know I haven't slept with billions of women...."
"Yet," Ziva said dryly, glaring at him.
"Probably not ever. The human body would wear out before then, Ziva." He smirked at that. "That's a nightmare."
"Trust me, DiNozzo, if you ever get that invitation, I'm having you fixed," Gibbs assured him, patting him on the back. "Full out castration."
"Boss! Eww! Can't you just have my tubes tied or whatever?"
"They can grow back," Ducky assured him happily. "It's a good thing you're careful, Anthony. I'd hate to see so many children from your loins."
"Yeah, me too, that's why it's a nightmare. Fortunately I've always been very careful about that stuff," he said happily. "So unless my father had one created and is raising it, I'm safe that way."
"Not really. Condry said to tell you she's still panting after your ass, DiNozzo. He said she's put it on a few bulletin boards and things."
"Who?" McGee asked. "There's women who like Tony that he hasn't slept with? I mean, besides Abby?"
Tony glared at him. "Yes, there have been. And this one told her bestest buddy that if I asked nicely enough she'd even share her girlfriend with me." He glared at his boss. "It's nearly lunchtime and I've still got to eat, boss. Thanks a great deal for that mental image coming back."
"Welcome, DiNozzo," he offered happily.
"Hold on, ROSENBURG!" McGee said, staring at him. "She wanted...."
Tony turned and covered the junior agent's mouth, holding up his other index finger. "Have you ever had someone *drool* over you? Literally, Probie?" He shook his head, but you could feel the smirk. "She did. It's very unattractive, and so was the offer to share me with her girlfriend if I asked nicely enough. I'd never have anyone that easy. Now, drop it. It's still lunch and I still have to eat today. Otherwise I'm going to be the cranky bitch on the floor." He removed his hand and wiped it on his pantsleg. "She's staying there, right, boss?"
"S'far as I know," he said smugly, looking at McGee. "Even Kate couldn't pick on him about that one. The girl was a walking disaster area."
"Oh, I know," he agreed dryly. "I've heard about some of her accidents."
"If he had done her, maybe she wouldn't have them," Ziva said, shooting Tony a smug look. "Think about that child."
"Willow's a genius," he said dryly. "She's like Abby, only a redhead and more bouncy without the caffeine. At the time she was heavily into the love of her life, who was a very delicate, shy blonde girl who should've smacked her senseless for drooling on me. I don't know why Tara didn't, but she should have. So a child between us would have her IQ, my looks, and would be a terror if Gibbs ever had a son." Gibbs snorted and shook his head. "Remember, boss, there's been incidences in your life too."
"Thankfully I'm just as careful as you are, DiNozzo. The thought of little Gibbs running around scares me the same way."
"The thought that gets me is if they mate," Ducky offered. Both agents glared at him, making him back up. "Well, it could happen. If they were of the same age. After all, they would get to know each other over the company events as it were and children of agents do often date among their peers at the same agency. You see it all the time at the FBI. I know Agent Fornell told me once about this darling couple of young ladies who....."
"Ducky, now *I* can't eat," Gibbs told him. "I had mine clipped, it'll never happen."
"I've got to have mine done soon," Tony muttered as he walked off pouting. "That's just wrong!" he yelled finally. "Eww!" He jumped up and down a few times, then went off to pout in private. He definitely couldn't eat now.
"So, the thought of him having a child with her and then it mating with the offspring of Gibbs would create a bad child?" Ziva asked.
McGee looked at her. "Boss, I think she needs mental help or possibly drugs," he decided, following Tony to go banish that image in private. Before it got stuck. He hated Rosenburg, but not that much. That child would be a Bane to the World.
"Ducky, just sedate her. I'm sure she'll bounce back if there's any complications to her mental state." He walked off, heading inside shaking his head. Jen met him in the elevator. "Ziva just proved she can think very bad thoughts."
"Should that be capitalized?"
He stopped the elevator and looked at her. "You've seen the file on Rosenburg by now, right?" She smirked and nodded. "She has a severe crush on DiNozzo. Ziva just brought up the fact that if they had a kid, it might mate with a kid I had some day. Now consider the hell that child will bring." He turned back on the elevator and got off on his floor while she was still looking horrified and nearly crying over that thought. She called about ten minutes after he got to his desk. "Gibbs." He listened. "No, I'm fixed. He'll get fixed if there's any children on the way." He hung up and shook his head. Then he paged DiNozzo. "Bring me back something from wherever you and McGee went to sulk and eat." He hung up and got back to work. He knew Tony knew what he liked.
A few minutes later, Tony came off the elevator and put a dandelion on his desk in front of him. "I still can't eat, boss. Sorry. But hey, roughage." He sat down at his desk to get back to work, noticing the email from their director. "Um, boss. Madam Director just sent me an email saying that our health insurance does cover the cost of optional vasectomy's why?"
"I had to tell her why most of my team was pouting. Since when does it cover that? It never used to."
"Apparently it does now," he noted, saving that one for later. Just in case he'd need it as ammunition against the old bitch.
Xander opened his door, nodding at the guy standing out there. "Came alone?"
"Tony's outside. He saw the point and he's thinking, he'll come if I call," he offered, walking inside. The woman with them stood up and came over, running a bug and wire detector over him. "Not like I like them."
"Good point. Who's listening to your earwhig?"
"Tony." He pulled it out and handed it over. "You can talk to him if you want."
"Perhaps in a few minutes." She handed it to her faithful servant. "Put it in the fridge, Rory." He nodded and headed that way. "Come sit, Jethro." He gave her a look then sat across from her. "You don't trust me?"
She smiled. "You've been in the field a long time, Jethro."
"Which is why I trust very few people." She nodded, accepting that. "I do agree that you're in a ...situation that could help my fellow soldiers and the reasoning behind it makes sense. Even if it does make me queasy."
"I agree that it can do that, but since you do see the necessity you'd be willing to help us?"
"I would but I'd need someone I trusted there with me. That's why Tony's in the car thinking."
"I understand fully. I wouldn't trust my safety to just anyone either." She smiled at Rory. "Thankfully he's just amoral enough to do the job well but moral enough that I know how he'll react in any given situation. Rather like I see our relationship if you come to work for me, Jethro. Trust must be established and earned. You'd be willing to take orders from a woman? It's been noted that you don't often do that at work since your former trainee became your director."
"I don't follow orders I can't agree with or are counterproductive. I seem to get a few of those from her."
"Good point. I'd mostly leave you alone. I would have to insist that you work on bringing down our failed training rate. It seems to be very high because Rory is very picky."
"I don't want people to go out and die on the first night," Rory/Xander complained. "Shoot me, I want to save the guys as much as you do, ma'am. Sending them out to die isn't going to help matters any."
"True," she agreed. "I'd rather have six or seven well trained strike forces to gather for our next step than twelve bad ones."
"You've got six good ones now," Rory reminded her. "I've got morons in training. We're scraping the bottom of the barrel unless you want to start recruiting cadets?" Gibbs shot him a look. "Sorry, but her picks and my picks are different. I'd rather have special ops people. She'd rather have the basic, standard infantry guy. Matter of opinion on who'd train easiest and best."
"Most special ops guys either know what's going on or they've been told it was a hallucination but they would train faster since you wouldn't have to go over so much self- defense and weapons in that great of detail." He looked at his prospective boss. "I can agree with the kid on that. It'd be faster and easier to train special ops guys, especially those who've been forced to retire for being just this side of 'okay for combat' and put on a desk. Either the fourth year and up veterans or the rookies who barely didn't make the cut and wanted it bad enough to try a second time would be the easiest to get."
She smiled at him. "That is a training plan I could get behind. Your second would help with that? Pick who could go out and gather our subjects for the next part?"
"He can and Tony's a very good judge of character. All I'm waiting for is his agreement."
"Get the earwhig, Rory." He got it for him, handing it over after warming it in his hand for a moment. "You're very thoughtful today."
"I've had icy stuff slipped in my ear before, it hurt." He sat down again, putting his feet back up. "It would go faster, ma'am, and it's not a problem to train guys who might've seen it in the field.
"Tony," Gibbs said, getting up and moving over to the window. "No, the freezer." He listened to his report. Then he looked at his prospective boss. "The black van of thugs are yours?"
"I did bring one of the extraction teams in case this was a setup."
He nodded. "Yeah, Tony, it's her insurance policy." He smirked at Rory. "You might check their training. They were already captured and tied up." He went back to listening. "Your answer is?" he prompted. He nodded and took it out, handing it back to Rory, who went to put it back in the fridge, well, really his pocket again. "He'll be right up."
"Thank you. How did he get the drop on my agents, Rory?"
"Depends on which group of idiots you brought, ma'am. The new trainees or an experienced team?"
"The new ones in training."
"Then they're idiots. That's how he managed it. I manage it most every morning. You managed it this morning in the break room if you'd think back."
"True, I hadn't considered that when I brought them," she agreed patiently, frowning at him.
"Magical I am not," Rory said dryly, holding up a hand. "Good I may be, but not even I can turn wheat into more than bread."
"Fine. We'll go over their training tapes tomorrow."
"Good with me, ma'am." Someone knocked and he looked. "Open." The door was opened and a man he knew walked in. "Morning."
"Good evening, Mr. Condry. Boss?"
"You are agreeing to help my little project, Agent DiNozzo, correct?" she asked quietly. He nodded. "Out loud?"
"Yeah, I'll help the boss with the project."
"Thank you." She smiled at him, noticing his evasion. "You should be more loyal to him until you get to know your comrades better, I have no problem with that oath." He grinned at that. "Now, your boss and Mr. Condry have an idea for where you are to recruit. I do want them to come out as well trained as possible. I'll let Mr. Condry show you what we're training for, if Agent Gibbs hasn't."
"He told me what we're training for. Which step are we in?" he asked, sitting down next to his boss. It was the only open seat.
"You two are that close?" she asked.
"No," Gibbs said dryly. "He's my second and it is the only open seat. I don't expect DiNozzo to sit on the floor and ruin his clothes."
"No one ever said I was a master housekeeper," Rory noted dryly. "We were going on a recruitment kick this weekend and I was heading with them," he noted patiently. "I can have them both briefed by then and let Gibbs go over the current training tapes before then, boss. That way DiNozzo can weed things out and LJ can figure out who's getting the Hiroshima machine treatment before we go. That way we come in with a new class when they're transferred."
"If that's your class down there, you're going to be doing a lot of fixing," Tony assured him.
"I know. I only chose the first two teams and they're the best we've got." She nodded at that, giving him a fond smile. "Speaking of, boss, wasn't I promised a bonus?"
"I thought Agent Gibbs was your bonus," she noted dryly.
"Much as I like LJ, we're not seeing it happening, boss. Not like I'd sleep with the others because you picked ugly, yet competent people for the team." She nodded, smirking a bit. "So, ya know, my bonus? Coming soon?"
"Fine," she agreed, standing up. "I'll find you a nice little bonus and slip him into your training class if none of them suit you, Rory. Female?"
"Yup, I'm like that unless it's for the job."
"So am I. The job is different than life."
"Thank you, dear. I don't like to work with those who are openly homosexual." She looked at Tony. "I know I don't have to worry about you with your reputation, Agent DiNozzo. I'll leave you boys to talk. Rory, do quit removing the listening devices. They're for your own good."
"Boss, we've had this talk before. I don't like being watched and if anything breaks in here, I can pretty well take it down. It's not like you have to worry about my loyalty," he said, staring her down. "Not after what I've done for you freely and openly."
"Point. Fine, we'll cut you back to the ones in the hall and the one in your bedroom since I'm worried about some on the monitoring staff. They seem to take great ...comfort from watching you at night." She nodded at them then left.
Gibbs got up and Xander handed him a bug sweeper, letting him help get everything into the freezer and inside the metal box in there. "Thank you. I hate those things."
"You and me both. I'm wondering who's been watching me at night." He looked at him. Then he shrugged. "Maybe they knew my cousin from the old base. I know a few have returned from his files."
"I'll check on that for you," Gibbs promised, looking around. Xander held up something and set it off, making Tony yelp. He smirked at him. "Magic jamming." He walked back into the living room, looking at Tony's neck. "It bit you when it died?"
"Yes!" He pulled off the small skin-colored patch. "How did you do that?"
"Magic jammer." He held it up then dropped it onto the table in front of the couch. "Okay. Now that we're mostly alone." He grimaced at Tony. "Hi."
"Hi. Why isn't the Cleveland group here?"
"They don't think it's necessary and they're watching from afar to make sure it's not a problem," he said, keeping his voice neutral but he was grimacing in distaste. "This group isn't making the same mistakes as the last one did and going into their territory. So far we've been hunting down south and the midwest for willing volunteers. Fair warning, if you're walked into a big room with a shiny machine with crystals? That's the Hiroshima machine. Fight your way out. You're about to be wiped and they don't always have the most gentle of touches."
"Sure," Tony agreed, nodding a bit. "I thought that was still science fiction."
"No, we've had a few projects before that hinged on mental coercion and hidden knowledge," Gibbs admitted. He sat down again. "We're going where this weekend?"
"Georgia." He grimaced. "Most of the guys, as far as I know, are fine when they're put back. I'm not going to promise they're going to suddenly become anti-violent though. She picked the ones who could be violent and their psych profiles say that they'd be good at it if they went violent. Plus I helped their hand-to-hand." Gibbs nodded at that. "Least I could do really."
"You've got a list of who failed?"
"Yeah, in my office. I checked the news and JAG sites each morning to make sure none of them have backfired into their spouse or anything." That got a smaller nod and a light smirk. "I couldn't see another way around that. No one said their machine was infallible. Especially not me. The Hiroshima machine was made by some guy who watched way too much anime and way too many spy movies. It's a huge machine with crystals. I've only seen it once and it creeped me out. I figure he had to spill blood to get the settings just right and it feels like chaos magic principles built the thing to me."
"The creator?" Tony asked.
"Dead. Attacked. Turned for a bit but dead now. He came to the boss to offer his help to stop the menace that was himself. She agreed and funded his research. Then he got dusted during a practice session. As far as I know it's the only one in existence." That got a nod from both agents. "Also, our base isn't *tiny* but it's tight."
"So you've got a good gossip chain?" Gibbs asked.
Xander nodded. "Headed by the boss's secretary, who makes the only decent coffee on the base." He pulled up his sleeve to show the bite marks. "One of our geeks was working on a new venom-based weapon and I ended up winning the lottery. I was allergic to it. Took me two weeks to clear it from my system. I've only recently gotten cleared to use that hand for anything. I couldn't even type with it for the first few days after I got out of the infirmary bed." He shifted closer. "The base isn't tiny but it's got about eighty support staff. About thirty on the geek squad, that includes the computer techs who're also hackers, and about a hundred guys including those in training.
"I've got six *skilled* hunting and retrieval teams. Alpha and Beta are the best trained. I trained them personally. They know what I know because I didn't realize I went that far with them," he admitted quietly. "The others got a more standardized training." That got a nod. "Teams are five to seven men. We've got six in training right now and DiNozzo there probably made them cry for their mommies. If you ask, you might get to see the machine at work." Gibbs shuddered and shook his head. "Also," he said, getting something out of a drawer and handing it DiNozzo. "Someone mailed me that. I'm not quite sure what it was but the geek squad installed one just the other day on my computer at the base. I don't have one at home.... But if it's what I think it is, that means you guys can log on from the office. You might need passwords or something but I can get you those tomorrow."
Gibbs smirked. "That would help, yes." He looked at the wireless router Tony was holding. McGee used those to remotely hack into other computers. He looked at him. "How many hackers do you have? I ask because McGee does some and I might be able to ask for favors from him, or slip it in as part of an assignment."
"We've got three good ones and one of them keeps swearing about someone blocking them. Someone named Rosenburg apparently keeps them on their toes now and then," he offered dryly. "I get asked about her a lot since my cousin worked with her."
"McGee complains about her too," Tony offered.
"Good, then DiNozzo can figure out which computer that goes on which day and LJ can do the other stuff until I can get you the prior training profiles."
"You can call me by my first name, Rory."
"Names are powerful things," he offered gently. "My cousin told me that they can be used for all sorts of things. Therefore we don't want to use names that can hurt you."
"Will we have mandatory physicals?" Gibbs asked. "Ducky usually does our stuff unless we're shot."
"No, we're pretty good on that," Xander admitted. "If you any allergies, I'd wear a bracelet but our infirmary is mostly for training injuries and testing. The boss was not happy when I ended up kicking the ass of someone who kept coming over to draw pints of blood for testing. I escaped, it's a good idea if you're trapped in there too."
"Was that the boss?" Tony asked.
"Her secretary. The second had an unfortunate run-in with one of the other trainees and ended up inside the machine for a few minutes." Gibbs shuddered again. "The rules state support and geek staff may not touch the hunting or training personnel, unless you fill out the form. She's got one all worked out to track what you like in case it comes up for an assignment. Apparently he jumped her, she kneed him in the balls, and he got sent home with prejudice and a mark on his file, she just got wiped and sent home." That got another nod from Gibbs, you could see him making mental notes. "So expect to see the woman from earlier a lot until the boss thinks she can trust you. Some of us she fills out the forms on for her own use," he said, looking at Tony, who shuddered and nodded. "You should know that I've recently had a talk with an Alpha team member who came in to watch the training going on to see if they could train a rookie. He questioned my methods and I pointed out I knew who was going to pass within two days. I was giving the rest of them skills that would be good in whatever war-torn area they were going to be ending up in after they got sent home and any fixing that needed done on the remaining's training would be done after they were gone. That's why they got the extra week before being released to a team."
"That does make sense in some ways," Gibbs agreed. "Do you correct it?" Xander smirked and nodded. He raised an eyebrow.
"You should know that a few creatures have attacked the base. Alpha and Beta teams are still the forefront and they're still the best, but the other guys have to be able to hold the base. I can't jump into every battle. Besides, we've got a hellhound in custody at the moment and it keeps getting loose. I had a chat with it, it likes to eat those who're truly violent souls. Apparently it's his favorite food." They both shuddered at that. "So if you see the really big, like five foot high, dog that's dark red and steamy, think non-violent, happy with humanity thoughts and believe it with everything in you. He would go after those who use violence when necessary but there's so many truly violent souls within the base he gets his pick of food when he gets loose. That's what made our mad mind scientist run into the training class and get staked."
"What are they planning on doing with it?" Tony asked hesitantly.
"Oh, she's going to one of the present hot spots to hunt. Someone very high agreed it was a good idea." They both groaned and he nodded. "Yeah. So he's just playing around while he's back here. He doesn't kill bodies outright and there's no way of saying if his kin are already in those sort of areas or not. Removing the soul doesn't kill a body, but it does weaken it a lot." Tony nodded more firmly at that. "So I'd guess weakness, extreme fatigue that doesn't go away with treatment, issues like that would be the end result. I've never studied his hunted prey and I don't care to. I got told to figure out how to kill them if necessary. I pointed out it was an ephemeral being, they couldn't even keep it in a cage." He shrugged. "You'd have to ask someone like Rosenburg about that."
"If we run into her, we will," Gibbs agreed, standing up. "Can we get those training profiles tomorrow?"
"Lunch is fine."
"One last word of caution? Keep that female agent of yours away from this. She doesn't like her for whatever reason. She doesn't particularly like female agents anyway but she hates yours. I'm not sure if it's a nationality bias or not."
"I'll keep her out of this stuff," he agreed, tugging on Tony's arm. He got up and followed him out.
"Have a better night, guys," he called after them, then went to take a shower and clean off the slimy feeling he had. He had backup now but it wasn't good to involve others in this war, even when they volunteered.
Tony stood up as his boss came in the next morning, handing him three papers. "What I've been able to do so far, boss. Including notes on one guy who was questioned about the project he had just left by one of us." He put that CD into his hand. "That way you can check their effectiveness." Gibbs nodded at that. "Also, trace on the last case," he offered, putting that on top. "The director wants to see you as well."
"Fine." He dropped everything onto his desk and walked up there with his coffee.
Tony sat down and went back to his quiet searching of what had been told to them. The kid had given them some very good clues and it would look like he was searching out former profiles to see how well covered they were and what was needed for the new recruits. He was being very careful. McGee came in and he held up the router they had been given, getting a glare. "Condry gave it to us last night. The boss wants to know which system is best. He'll be right down. The director has him."
"Okay." He handed over a CD. "The information you wanted on hellhounds?" He went to his desk and sat down.
Tony looked down at him. "Gibbs called?"
"No." He looked down at him. "Someone else called and asked me to hack Rosenburg to get it. Apparently I'm involved as well?"
"Not a clue. Ask the boss." He shrugged and got into that file so he'd know too. There was no way his soul was being taken by some big, ghostly dog.
Gibbs met Xander over lunch, handing him a bottle of water since he had just finished his. "Long day?"
"Yeah, half the training class decided to prove their manliness by going after some of the reprogrammed hostiles. Even the ones using the right method failed and the reprogramming staff thought it was a good indication that the training of the teams weren't going so well. See, they hate me," he said dryly. "So the rest stepped in with the tasers. The hunt teams stepped in and ended both the creatures they took on but it wasn't anything but messy and the team leaders screamed at me when I came in along with the reprogramming staff. I pointed out I was in bed having my morning wet dream and they didn't like that. I told the team leads to watch the tapes of them fighting and to deal with it that way. It's clearly not my issue, it's theirs. The only good thing that happened was that the director decided I was right, she was hiring me idiots because they did it in the first place." He handed over an envelope. "For your viewing displeasure. I'm down to one trainee and he's getting the full force of me doing it for him since the two training commanders are morons too. They're the ones who pointed out the team was less than manly for your second having gotten them. They encouraged it."
"Tony taped that part for me," he admitted, handing that over. "Everything we agreed on?" Xander nodded. "Thank you. Anything else good happen today?"
"Yeah, one thing. We got a call from one of the junior girls in Cleveland, she wants to join the project. Said she could help and her big brother is a moron and bothering her."
"My guy's...." He shook his head quickly. "That's good at least."
"No, when I came in to interview her, I knew your guy had one up there so I asked. She snuck down for ice cream last night and broke her leg in twelve places when she fell down four flights of stairs. Their head girl Buffy apparently screamed and made fun of her in turn until she stood up to her and backed her off with a snarl of needing painkillers. He might be getting a visit once she's out of traction."
"I'll give him that warning. Any other cheery news?"
"The slayer candidate didn't work out. The training morons under me tested her and they beat her. So I don't know *what* their group is doing but it's extremely dumb. The director wanted me to call my cousin and talk about a training alliance. She was thinking about sending me up there." Gibbs shuddered at the very idea of pulling that off. "Yeah, forty-five teenage girls living in an old Catholic school. Maybe I'll do that with the violent boy who was cheering on the idiots this morning and now has me all to himself. Teach him everything and send him to them. Let him train them. Of course I'd have to neuter him first, but that might be fun for him. Who knows with that guy." He shrugged. He glanced around then looked at Gibbs again. "Anything else you need?"
"There's a spell to banish hellhounds," he offered, handing it over.
Xander read it over and smiled. "Thanks, might need this." His phone beeped and he looked at it, reading the new text message. "Hey, I've got the afternoon off but have your guy start looking for new recruits. The hellhound got hungry and went after him for hunting the director's secretary. She's fine, he's kibble, and the hellhound can kill if he wants to. Apparently he likes her coffee too." He shook his head. "So I've got the afternoon off. He finished up his light snack, since the guy probably had very little soul, with the two training commanders. It's like someone cast a wish for me."
Gibbs shuddered. "I heard about those. Let's not hope that. They might eat my guy next."
"I doubt it. He's been going after the ones who rate high on the serial killer index."
"One less I have to put in Levenworth," Gibbs said dryly. "Georgia trip?"
"I have no idea," he admitted. He shrugged. Someone honked and he looked over. "Fuck," he muttered.
"Finn," he agreed. "Your cousin?"
"Hated his ass. We look just enough alike too," he sighed. He looked as the agent walked up to him, getting a look. "What?"
"You know me?"
"My cousin Xander told me all about you, Mr. Finn. By any chance are you the reason the slayer this morning failed so miserably?"
"She did what?"
"The two self-defense commanders beat her," he said dryly.
"Well...." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I am working on some training. Do you remember which one came down? We've had a few disappear this way."
"Yeah, her I know. She thought she was a lot better than she was." Xander rolled his eyes. "You really do look a lot like your cousin. Have you seen him? Buffy thought you might have."
"Haven't. Last I heard he was on more search and rescue missions."
"Oh." He grimaced. "That's fine. Is he...."
"Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS," he said, holding up his credentials. "Also over training with Mr. Condry."
"Oh." He brightened at that. "It's an honor, sir."
"Thank you. Are you part of it?"
"I'm being reassigned there as of today," he admitted. He stared at Xander again then smirked. "Are you sure you haven't seen your cousin?"
"Very. Nor will I be seeing him. He's a bit goody goody for my tastes, Mr. Finn."
"How did you know me then?"
"Easy, I went over the old training footage. Your trainers sucked. A librarian and a hacker helped take you down, plus a construction worker and a slayer. The military should be better than that." Riley stiffened. "Shouldn't it?" he asked coolly.
"They had inside information."
"Yes, I heard that as well. Scuttlebutt said that your brains leaked out your cock with the slayer." The man went very pale. "Anything else?"
"Prison." Riley shuddered. "For stopping something that was attacking a human." He stood up. "Now, if you don't mind, LJ has just joined the team, most of the training class were morons who went against a hellhound today, and the last one got eaten a while ago. I'm going over how to better recruit and train. Why are you being reassigned?"
"Joy. Then you're under me. Anything else?" That got a head shake. "If I do hear from my cousin, should I pass on a message? I know he's checking his email now and then."
"Tell him the girls miss him. Especially the younger ones." Xander nodded and shrugged. "Also that I got asked to watch over him by his friends if I ran into him."
"I'll let him know." Riley nodded and walked off. "I'll be back in tomorrow morning since there's no class going on at the moment. We'll go over the basics of what we're training then." That got a nod and a hand-wave. Xander relaxed again and hissed at his back. "No wonder she failed. I know she was trained better than that when Xander was up there. He would've kicked her ass over her stupidity."
"He going to be a problem?" Gibbs asked.
Xander looked at him and nodded. "Yup. Really big problem. A shoot me up the ass with a double barrel shotgun problem." Gibbs nodded, making note of the name. "You should probably go, that way you get some food. I'd better head back and redo the training manuals." He stood up and walked off shaking his head. His phone rang on the way back to his car. "Condry," he sighed. "I met him. Yes, I know. He got me confused already. Ask her if she means for me to whip *him* into shape as well? Because he admitted to me that he helped train the slayer from earlier. Fine. I'm coming in. Tell her I'll be right there." He hung up and started to swear under his breath as he walked. He did not like this development. Especially if Buffy had *sent* him down.
Xander walked into the training area, finding Riley looking around. "Front and center, rookie." Riley gave him an unamused look. "Your earlier trainee's performance has put you on probation. This is how we do things around here. We start with the intense self- defense drills."
"Because I have high standards. I pass one out of thirty of the cadets. They go onto a hunting team. The rest get this experiment removed from them and sent back to the regular military. It's the least we can do to make sure they survive any further action they get sent into." That got a nod and Riley moved closer. "Within two days I have a very good handle on who has the skills to move on and who doesn't. Those without it, I tend to do some tampering, seeing if they can guess anything is wrong. The ones who stay get anything I tamper with corrected their last week."
"That way they know some but they're not dangerous to others," Riley said, nodding. "But, most of them won't remember so it'll be instinct that'll make them guess and pick up something."
"True. At the very least they'll have the instinct to pick up something. Since we train them in how to use the standard weapons and the new ones as well, they have the instincts behind them if they have to use one, even if they can't remember why. They have just as much chance of defeating something that way as not. That also allows me to gauge IQ. I require smarts. I've flunked some that I've initially passed due to being field oxen, only fit for plowing fields."
"Sounds reasonable since they're mind wiped," he agreed. "It leaves them with enough of an instinct in case something happens but it's not so firmly ingrained that they screw up on purpose."
"True. Now, the man you met earlier, he and one of his people are working on getting us someone other than mindless thugs like we've been getting. It'll be a nice change. Get this straight now. I am in charge over your position. You get to beat them into shape. I tell you what you're doing. Even if it seems wrong to you. For those going on it's fixed their last week."
"Understood, Mr. Condry."
"Good. You can work with LJ?"
"I can as long as you're both reasonable."
"I hope I don't have to be but the last two training commanders got eaten this morning from what I understand. The hellhound found them a nice snack."
Riley shuddered. "Why do we have one here?"
"One's under study and then it's going to a war zone."
"Not my call, not your call, and I hope it works out that they only eat those who deserve it," he said more gently. "It is ephemeral." He looked around. "It's also loose again. It likes to watch the class since we've had so many in here who were high on the possible serial killer scales." A big head came through a wall. "You ate the last one, Ruby. Go play with the geek squad or the reprogrammers." The hellhound came in fully and sniffed him so he sighed and did what he could to pet it, making it a happy dog. "Good boy, Ruby. Very good boy. What's up?" It whimpered. "Were they mean to you?" It snuggled against his chest. "Fucking morons. Come on, show Rory who was mean." The dog looked at him then walked him off, taking him to show him.
"There he is! Damn it, he escaped again!"
"Yes, because you're a fucking moron," Xander said dryly. "It's an ephemeral being. You can't lock it in a cage!" he shouted. "If Ruby's coming to me to complain that you're being mean to him, well, let's just say you can join the next training class too." The man went pale and backed off, shaking his head. He looked behind him, finding a larger hellhound. "Hi, momma hellhound. Is Ruby yours?" She sniffed him, then the dog, then the people around. She howled and a whole troop appeared. Xander wanted to shit himself. He had been scared before but now, he was so terrified he was going to stop breathing soon. Ruby guarded him and the rest around him, including Riley, were eaten. The momma dog picked up Ruby and carried him off, sounding like she was muttering at him. The last one stopped to look at Xander and grinned, lapping him before bouncing off like a playful puppy. Xander fell onto his ass and sighed, looking up. "Thank you." He looked around. "Um, security?" he called. "Anyone? They're probably gone." One of the security guards stuck his head in and the bouncy puppy struck, eating him and killing him, then he wandered off. The feeling of being watched was gone. "Okay, they're definitely gone now." He got up and pushed the alarm button, bringing more people. Then he pointed. "They got mad that we stole their puppy and abused him," he told the Director when she showed up. "Did you see the tape?"
"I did. It was nice Ruby protected you, Rory." She stroked his face. "Go get drunk, please."
He snorted. "No, I'm going to go celebrate with a hooker." He walked off, going to grab his jacket and head out. He made it back to his apartment in time to change, surprised that his underwear was still white. "Thank you, Ruby, wherever you went to." He went to shower, letting it go in there. There weren't any cameras in there and he wasn't about to break down in front of anyone. He got out when someone pounded on the door, going to look at Tony. "Hi. Let me finish this," he said, pointing at his shower. He went back to the cold water, finishing his minor breakdown. It was a nice and good thing for him.
Tony ran a bug sweeper around, timing him. When Xander came out in a towel he looked pretty normal again. "What happened? Gibbs got a call?"
"Ruby, our hellhound?" Tony nodded at that. "Apparently his family pack got really pissed at us for the ones who were abusing him. The whole pack showed up. Ate most of the programming staff. Ate Finn. Ate a few others. Ate some of the guards. Ate a hunting team that rushed in to help." He flopped down. "I need to go find a hooker and celebrate tonight."
Tony just stared at him. "Are they dead?"
"Probably about half of them. Not a clue otherwise. I called security, the last one ate his snack on the go, and they came in for the cleanup."
"Are you all right?"
"I'm very surprised my underwear was still white when I got home."
"Mine wouldn't have been," Tony admitted. "I'll let Gibbs know. So no more hellhound?"
"Probably not." Tony nodded and left him alone. Xander got up and got dressed, finding his wallet and keys. He was going to celebrate living. He hoped he didn't run into a Vice cop tonight. He didn't think jail would really work for him for that purpose.
Tony walked back into the unit, standing in front of Gibbs' desk. "Ruby's family pack came for him. Or her, not sure of gender," he admitted. "Ate the people who had hurt him. Including the new guy you had me doing a background on, boss. Most of the programming staff, one of the hunting teams, some of the security people."
"Where did Condry go?"
"To find a hooker and celebrate living, boss. He said he was lucky his underwear was still white."
"It's an honest man who can admit that," McGee offered. "Boss, I got sent footage of the attack and a list of what people you two were to hire for. Since I've got the router on my computer apparently they're sending it to me."
"Send it over. Did I tell you what Condry said over lunch?"
"One of the girls, Tricia, came down to volunteer and couldn't get past the former people over training. Also, your sister may be visiting once she's out of traction. Something about a midnight ice cream run and falling down four flights of stairs. He said she broke a leg in twelve places, McGee."
"I'm calling up there," he noted, grabbing his cellphone and heading down to the parking garage for a while to rant at them.
Tony got onto McGee's computer, frowning. "It's encrypted, boss. It won't transfer over properly." Gibbs came over to watch the video. "Okay, I'm guessing the one protecting him was Ruby," he said quietly. Gibbs nodded. "The list is at the end of this it looks like." They shared a look. "Mine would've been brown long before then. Like when the momma appeared," he admitted quietly.
"Mine too," he agreed. "I don't want to mess with anything like that." He took the list Tony printed and went to look it over. "How would you find an evil genius in the field of mind control?"
"Look in Evil Genius Quarterly?" Tony suggested. His boss glared at him. "I'm not kidding, it's an underground journal published by someone up at Harvard, boss. I'll find the link and pass it on." He googled the society and passed on the link to him.
"You really can find any sort of crackpot on the internet," he sighed, shaking his head. McGee came back. "Your sister all right?"
"In traction, on morphine at the moment, but she did slur at me," he offered dryly. "Boss, can I have this weekend to go see my sister? I know we've got it off but with this stuff going on...." He got a hand wave. "I can?"
"Go today. Be back Friday. I'll need you this weekend." McGee quickly packed what he'd need and headed out, going to the train station. It was almost as fast as flying and cheaper on the last minute issue. Gibbs shook his head. "That's going to be one loud meeting."
"It is," Tony agreed. "Should we send a note to him to tell them the first one failed?"
"We'll send it to his PDA in a few hours. He probably went for the bus or the train. Cheaper and it'll give him time to vent before he sees her," Gibbs offered. He looked at Ziva's desk then at Tony. "Where did she go?"
"Ducky sedated her again." He shrugged. "She was going off on something about this issue and he sedated her to make her quit doing it so openly. She's on his office couch."
"Good enough. Let's hope we don't get a case." Tony looked at his phone. "I'm not that good, DiNozzo."
"Yes you are, boss. It always happens when someone's on vacation." The director came down the stairs and he coughed, drawing his boss's attention.
"Agent Gibbs, where is Officer David and Agent McGee?" she asked. "I didn't think you had a new case yet."
"She's sedated in Ducky's office according to Tony and I let McGee go see his sister for a few days since she fell down four flights of stairs last night in her search for ice cream. She's in traction at the moment." He looked at her. "Broke her leg in twelve spots."
She hissed and winced. "That poor girl. Where is she?"
"Cleveland," Tony offered dryly, grinning at her. "With the rest of the issue you had Abby looking at the other night."
"Oh. I see." She nodded and looked at Gibbs. "Are things looking up?"
"Some. There was a small attack earlier. It was gotten through and now we're working on the aftermath."
"Thank you. Keep me informed and give me some leave papers for Agent McGee please."
"When I can find them." She nodded and walked off, sending him copies to his inbox.
He frowned when they came in, forwarding them on. "Do those, DiNozzo."
"Of course, boss." He did the paperwork she'd need and sent it to the right places, including a note to Abby for her and Ducky.
Xander walked in the next morning and found the director looking for him. He headed up to her office, taking his cup of coffee with a thinly veiled grimace. "Thanks, dear."
"Welcome, Rory." She watched him go. This was not going to be pleasant.
The director looked up when he walked in without knocking. "You don't ask for permission?"
"You said ASAP and this is my first cup of coffee."
"I heard what you did last night." Xander shrugged, sipping his coffee. "That doesn't concern me?"
"It's only right to celebrate surviving. Fortunately no kids will come from it." She gaped. "She was cute enough and I played safe. What more did you want? I didn't get eaten. The other guy who lived probably had some too."
"I was more worried about why the hellhound saved you," she said, staring him down.
"Because I respect those things that are more powerful than I am. I never tortured him, I stuck up for him when I found someone trying to torture him. He was a baby, just a puppy. They tortured him to see what he could do. I'm surprised it took the rest of his pack so long to get here to save him."
"You know about those things?"
"I looked it up online."
"Not from your office and you don't have a computer at home," she noted dryly.
"Yes, but I know what a public library is," he countered, staring her down. "Not like I'm stupid enough to leave something that deadly around me without checking to see what it can do, what it likes, and whether or not you can kill it. I fully respected Ruby. He was a damn good dog. He was doing what his nature intended, cleaning out the bottom sludge in the gene pool."
"He ate a lot of fine officers."
Xander snickered. "Okay, first, if they got eaten by him, they weren't *fine* officers. He went after souls filled with violence. The more violent ones got eaten first. Considering the guys he ate earlier yesterday all scored high on at least three of the five indicators of being a serial killer? Not my concern. He was clearing the filter on the gene pool of the sludge. That's what you guys were going to send him to do. Did you think he wasn't going to eat any of the guys on our side if they were that bad?" She gave him a glare. "Truth, Director. He's not going to discriminate on which side he eats. He protected me because I protected him and I'm not violent that way. I do what I have to do and nothing further. It's not like I do this for *fun* the way some of them did.
"As for the pack action, they would have eaten me if he hadn't stuck up for me. That's because I made the torture squad stop torturing him. I also pointed out repeatedly what he was like. He was a thinking being and it got his respect. I'll respect anything stronger than me as long as it's not trying to hurt me." He felt a nudge and looked back at the late, bouncy puppy from last night, nodding. "Hi." He let the dog sniff him, then scratched his head when he became solid. "I feel very honored. How is Ruby?" The dog lapped him then tipped his head and lapped him again. "I know, I ran into chaos magic last night." He licked his lips. "It'll be okay. I'm the one who told them to keep your packmate out of a cell." The puppy licked him again then disappeared. Xander looked at his boss again. "See?" He finished his coffee.
"Ever think of being a father?"
"Yes but fortunately I got hit with radiation in my younger life. Anytime I get that wild hair up my ass I remember the radiation and get happy again." He tossed the paper cup out and smiled at her. "Anything else, boss? LJ and I are talking about restaffing issues today during our usual lunch meeting."
"I'm not sure he's going to end up loyal."
He looked at her. "I guess that depends on what you do to him and how much this hurts the other soldiers. Remember, he's doing it to save their lives. Not because he thinks humans are better. He's an end goal sort." She nodded at that. "His second is doing it because he'd follow Gibbs into hell if he needed him to. As long as your goals and their goals are in synch, there's no problem."
"That's good to know. What about your own, Rory?"
"You know why I'm here. Again, as long as the goals remain in synch."
She nodded. "I understand." She stared at him. "I used the machine on the others."
"Try it," he offered. "Watch me break the machine again like I did the last time you had that thought." He stared her down. "But do bring it on if you feel the need to," he offered coldly.
"I don't think breaking the machine this time is in line with my personal goals at the moment."
"Decent of you. Anything else? I've got to find you a new training commander. That way I get one with some damn sense."
"That might be amusing."
"Like I said, I'll teach the other guys what they need to know so their lives aren't in danger in whatever assignment they end up in. The machine leaves them enough memories to act as instinct. I'm still not going to be any less picky. I'm not putting partially trained or incompetent people into the field."
"I agree. I see why now. Half of Beta team was taken down by a master vampire last night." Someone knocked and walked in. "Ah, Patty." Xander looked but she didn't see any recognition on his face.
"Patty," he said cordially, mentally wincing. She was another of the younger slayers. He looked at his director. "She is?"
"A slayer. She wants to join."
"I see. Well, I'll test her personally and if she does pass I'll put her with Beta team then." She nodded. "By your leave? I could use more coffee."
"I was wondering who kept taking mine."
"Your secretary is the only one who makes decent stuff." He walked off, looking at the girl. "You're how old?"
"Twenty," she said.
Xander gave her a look in front of the secretary, taking his new cup of coffee, this time in his mug. "Try it again, kid. There's no way you're even legal, much less twenty."
"I am so!" she said firmly.
Xander looked at the secretary, who he knew had a teenage daughter. "How old do you think she is?"
"Her file says twenty."
"It's damn easy to put down any random number," Xander reminded her. "Truth, kid. Now," he said firmly.
"You're worse than your cousin," she sneered. "He abandoned us."
He shrugged. "I heard he's traveling to find the rest of you. So they aren't killed for being freakishly strong by guys who don't like strong kids." She gaped then burst out crying. "That alone proves that you're not twenty. Now, how old are you really?" he pressed coolly.
"I'm...." The director came out. "Tell him I'm twenty!"
"Her file says so."
Rory looked at her. "Please," he said dryly. He glared at her and she wilted. "Birthday!" he snapped. She whispered. "Excuse me, did you just admit to being fifteen?" She swallowed and looked down. He nodded and looked at the boss. "She's too young for at least another year."
"Then she'll get some gentle training. There's no way Beta team is going out for the next four months."
Rory sighed and nodded. "Fine. If she can pass. If not, I'll send her butt back to them with a training evaluation so they can work on any weak spots and send her back when she's legal."
"As you wish. She is your type, isn't she?"
"Not at her age," he said, looking disgusted. "Boss, I knew you had issues, but she's just a kid. That's disgusting and if I find any of the other guys trying the little girl I'm going to get them too." He walked her off, glaring at her and shaking his head. "Down the hall, into the blue room. I'll be there when I finish my coffee."
"I'm not a little girl."
"You're fifteen. Yes you are." He pointed. He leaned against the wall and finished his coffee, shaking his head at one of the security guards. "Slayer trainee."
"I saw. She's cute."
"She's fifteen and if I find someone touching her I'm going to break bones," he said firmly. The guard smiled and nodded, walking on. He took his last drink and put his cup down next to the door. That would let anyone know he was in there. Only he had the bullet ridden smiley face cup. One other guy had the classic forehead shot. His had two eye shots, a forehead shot and dripping brains on it. It was fairly distinctive. He gathered himself and walked in, heading to test her. "Warmed up?" She nodded. He waved a hand as he walked. "Attack me. Let's see."
"Are you sure you're not Xander?"
"I'm his cousin. Expect similarities and revel in the differences. Now, I'm going to hit you when I get close enough." She sighed as only a teenager could and lunged, attacking him. "Thank you." He beat back her attack. She was a bit better than when he had left. So apparently Faith had been working with her. She was the better fighter. He kicked her ass anyway but it was a longer fight than the other one. He looked at her, watching her pant and grip her stomach. "You'll do," he decided. "You need work but you'll do." She looked up at him and he nodded. He walked over to the intercom. "I need the leader of Beta team in the blue room," he announced. He let it go and stay there, watching how she cooled down. The woman who ran Beta team walked in. "I heard. Who?"
"He's alive?" Rory asked.
"Willow brought him back last month but he's chipless and pissed," Patty told him. "Her?"
He nodded. "Tro, this is Patty. She's a slayer trainee. She'll do."
Tro nodded. "I'll pull the security footage to watch how she did, correct any faults, then we'll work on rebuilding the team with her."
"Good idea. Are you going to promote from within?"
"Hell no," she said grimly. "Find me at least two more good ones." She looked at the kid. "How old are you?"
"Fifteen," Xander told her, staring at her. "For another six months."
"I can keep her in training that long. I'm sure she'll learn enough by then and she'll be monitored if we need her before then."
"Start with team integration and to make her quit lying about her age," he offered.
She nodded. "That's fine. Her physical skills?"
"She'll do. It went almost a half-hour. She's where you were when I graduated you."
"Decent enough. She's my chick then. Come on...what's your name?"
"Patty." That got a nod and she walked her off. She gave Xander a smirk and nodded. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Expect to work hard, young lady." He walked off and went to pick up his coffee cup, finding it refilled. "Thanks, guys." He sniffed and tasted the first few drops, then shrugged. The poison was one he was immune to. He walked off, going back to his desk. He went to pull up tapes of her fighting and start her personnel file. It was his job since he was over training. A few hours later someone peeked in. "I'm immune to that one."
"Bitten twice in the past," he said dryly, looking at him. "Who poisoned the coffee?"
"She's going to hear it then." He got up and took the rest of it in there, going to pour it into her cup and stare her down. She looked horrified. "I got bitten when I was younger. Thank you though. Haven't had any in a while. Should I make you drink some?"
"You can't!" she said harshly. "Only a few people have immunities."
"Yes, all of those who were bitten. There's about six thousand of us probably." He grabbed her by the hair and forced her head back, picking up the cup with his other one, tipping it. "Now, do you think this is a good idea?" he glared. She struggled and he slammed her head into the desk. Then he put the cup against her mouth again. "Your choice, Director. Quit fucking with me. I'm not here for that." She went pale and he glanced behind him, nodding at the security guys. "She poisoned my coffee. I'm proving why it's a bad idea." He looked at her again, his eyes cold and ruthless. "Well?"
"It wasn't intentional!" she gasped. "I'm not immune."
He let her go and put down her cup. "Pity. I wouldn't do it again." He walked off, going back to his office. He had proven she wasn't going to fuck with him ever again. Sometimes he had to have a show of proof and fighting with Buffy for years had given him some insights about how stupid some women could be when they felt their control slipping. He looked up when the head of security walked in alone. "She drink it?"
"No. Thankfully. She's allergic to the antitoxin."
"I'll make a note in her file," he offered, opening it to do that. Then he looked at him. "I don't play those games."
"Good. Still probably not politically expedient, Rory."
"Yay. She tried to poison me."
"She was trying to see if you were your cousin since she hasn't heard anything about him from any of her contacts anywhere in the world."
"The problem with that is I'm the one immune, not him. They got us mixed up. He only got bit once. We're not sure if he'll develop the immunity or not."
"Oh. Interesting. Any idea where he is?"
"Africa?" He shrugged. "He likes Africa thanks to the hyena taint."
"Which is somewhere you can hide forever," he agreed dryly. "Sure." He nodded. "Just a warning, don't do it again."
He shrugged. "Don't let her poison me again. Oh, new girl on Beta team? Fifteen."
"I got briefed. Trojan will watch for her."
"Good. Just in case though."
"Yeah, I know. A few of the guys wouldn't hesitate." He shrugged. "She good?"
"She'll do. She needs refinement."
That got a smile. "High praise from you."
"It's rare so those who earn it get it. The new guy LJ and I are working on hiring staff. Did she have a mandate?"
"She sent it to your email along with a 'if you ever try that again I'm going to have you killed' note."
"Hmm. Sure." He smirked. "What's this I heard about Spike?"
"He's back. He wiped out half of Beta team and injured a few more. The debriefing tapes should be uploaded by now."
He turned and got into those files. "Thanks, man."
"Welcome. The guy yesterday who's in the infirmary, was that really Finn? The Finn?"
"From what my cousin said, yup." He gave him a look. "They left enough for him to survive if he's still alive."
"Most of them are. Only a few of the guys got really eaten and the security guy who got nibbled on last was one I had concerns about."
"I'm surprised you didn't send in Mikail."
"I would've but he was off-duty yesterday."
"Well, the puppy that ate that one guy showed up this morning. Check on him." His eyes went wide and he went to do that. Plus to check the others on their mutually drawn up list of people who were probable snacks. Xander sat back to watch the training tape, smirking at it. Spike was still in fine form and he was doing as he had promised if he ever got the chip out of his head. It was pretty to watch and his trainees had done good. Spike was always going to be better. He had decades of experience on them in fighting dirty. He knew the club where they had nearly taken him. He also saw the 'capture at all costs' order. He tapped in an amendment that he may not be in the city any longer. That he had a lust for one of the senior slayer's guts to be his garters. Then he sent it back and sent it to Gibbs. Because he should know how bad it could get. He sent him Patty's too, just in case."
Gibbs looked over from his briefing when his computer beeped. "Get that, McGee."
Tim McGee walked over and looked then at him. "It's from Condry, boss. Training tape from a fight last night." Another beep. "And one on a girl named Patty who just joined."
"I'll get it in a minute. Is it a video file?"
"Looks like it at those sizes." He checked the girl's tape and nodded. "It is. She's fairly young too." He knew her. Gibbs came over to look. "She's one of the ones up in Cleveland," he said quietly. Gibbs nodded, sitting down to watch them. He stayed to watch both of them. The boy was seriously deadly. He heard the training comments and snickered. "He's worse at handing 'good jobs' than you were, boss."
"She had form faults that can be trained out of her. For her age, she's good." He turned on the other one. The person at the end of the first was in this one. He watched the deadly battle, growling. The point of getting things like this into their service to save lives still rankled him but if this thing could fight like that and was impervious to being shot, he definitely would. He read the training notes and the order at the end. He sent it to Tony. Who stared at it then at him. "He trained them too."
"I can see why he's so picky," he said neutrally. He rewatched it. The thing could take down Ziva probably. He turned it off when the director came by. "Boss," he said, holding up the paperwork for her. "Trip?"
"Case willing." Tony nodded, getting back to work while the director took the forms from him.
"I thought you were seeing your sister, Agent McGee?" she asked. "Is she all right?"
"She's fine and she yelled at me for coming to see her," he admitted. "She said she'd be down once she was down to a normal cast." That got a smile. "So I came back early."
"That's fine. I'll amend your paperwork." She looked at Gibbs. "The other case?" she asked quietly. He pointed at his computer, letting her see. She stared in horror. "Is that thing...."
"Not human and very skilled," he noted plainly. "That's what they want to take soldier's places," he said quietly.
"If we could get him onto our side, it might help. Precautions or not." She shivered. "Are they all right?"
"Not all of them. Some are injured." She nodded and walked off. "A few were dead," he noted quietly. She looked back at him and he nodded. "The commander had her arm in a sling on a later tape from today."
"Good luck, Jethro." She went back to her office to amend the paperwork and make some calls.
He watched it run again, watching how he moved. "Street brawling."
"Not like they can walk into any dojo and learn, boss," Tony noted quietly. Gibbs looked at him. "They can't."
"True." He got back to work on the other case. They had time to deal with this one after hours.
Xander took stock of his objective. It was nearly finished. Most of them had been eaten. He wasn't sure if he still had any targets left other than the director and he definitely couldn't take her out since he had reacted to her poisoning attempt. He looked over as someone knocked on the door, getting up to find Gibbs on the other side. "I think bad thoughts and you show up?" he quipped.
"Sometimes it works that way. Let's go talk somewhere without bugs."
"Sure." He grabbed his coat and slid into his shoes to follow him. He frowned at the car, pointing at one the bug scanner hadn't picked up but he could see. Gibbs swore but nodded, taking them to the park to walk and talk. Once they got there and he made sure they were alone. "What's up?"
"She tried to poison me with something I'm immune to."
"So of course you reacted," Gibbs said grimly. Xander nodded, glancing at him. "You knew it was stupid."
"I was in too much misery to think. Every now and then I hit a 'react first' moment and then think how stupid it was later. Which was what I was doing when you showed up," he noted dryly. "That and trying to figure out if I could even finish what I'm here for."
Gibbs nodded, considering it as they walked. They were interrupted by a squeak as Xander was pounded. "He really likes you."
"He does." He sat up, scratching the puppy's head. "Good boy, Ruby. Very good boy." The dog tipped his head then barked. Xander grinned and scratched under his chin. "You're just a big, playful puppy today. Is your mommy letting you hunt?" he cooed. The dog wiggled his back end and bounced over to Jethro, who let him sniff his hand then petted him gently. "See, he's a nice guy too."
"He's a good boy," Jethro agreed. The dog barked and coughed, dropping something before leaving. He picked up the small bracelet and held it up. "Recognize that?"
"Unfortunately." He stood up and took it to look over, looking at the back. "The girl from the other day showed me hers. They've got their names, GPS tracking chips, and life sign monitors." He looked at him and Gibbs gave a pointed look around. "They had one ephemeral being, why not more?" he asked quietly, holding up the band. "Someone should call and check. There's no clasp so it had to be taken off her wrist some other way."
"Should you or do you want me to, kid?"
"I will. I heard she was a nice kid." He pulled out his phone. "Good thing I looked up the new number, huh?" He hit send and listened to the cheerful voice on the other end. "May I speak with Buffy please? Rory Condry." He waited. "Miss Summers. I am. I also got a delivery from a hellhound I've seen a lot recently. It's a bracelet with the word "Lania" on the back?" He slumped, nodding. "I don't know. That particular one only usually goes for people on the serial killer scale and what the young lady current with my group said she wasn't. No, I'm in DC, Miss Summers." His heart broke when he heard her check and burst out swearing. "I don't know. The hellhound puppy came and dropped it in front of myself and the person with me. Thank you. As I said, we do have one of your trainees down here and I'll have her send it back. No, I looked it up. You're not unlisted." He hung up and looked at Gibbs. "I've gotta go back to the base. Coming?"
"Sure." This would be the first time he'd seen the base. He got them back into the car, letting the kid drive. He looked over the bracelet. "This is nice."
"It's a fairly simple idea but it's sealed so they can't accidentally take it off and forget it. It's also hopefully waterproof from what my cousin said."
"Who designed them? I know some people who could use it. Including my ME, his mother's got dementia and wanders."
"My cousin." He glanced at him and turned a corner, heading down into the parking garage a few minutes later, parking in his usual spot. He looked up and waved at the camera, pointing at Gibbs. "Gibbs." He walked him toward the elevator, letting them both on. They were met with a security squad. "This is Gibbs. I recruited him to help me."
"We know, sir, but we have to register his biometrics. Why are you back?" Xander took the bracelet and held it up, getting clueless looks. "What's that to?"
"It's one of the junior slayers. Ruby brought it to me. Are they working on him again?"
"Not as far as we know," the head of security admitted. "Special Agent Gibbs, come with me please?" That got a nod and he headed with him to get things registered. "She's in the barracks," he told Xander as he walked off.
Xander headed for the barracks, finding the women together in the sitting room. He looked around. "Where's Patty?"
"You're not supposed to be in here," one of them said. He smacked her on the head. "Ow! Bastard!"
"Where is Patty?"
"Up in her room."
He headed up there, tapping before walking in. "Patty."
"Mr. Condry," she said, looking concerned. He held up the bracelet and her breath caught. "Oh, God no!" She snatched it. "Linia?" She looked up at him. "Is she here and dead?"
"I don't know," he said quietly, coming to sit beside her. "The hellhound we had here came to where LJ and I were talking and he gave it to us. I'm not sure." She burst out crying and he let her rest on his shoulder. "They said she was back there but they couldn't be sure," he soothed. "I have their number and I'll let you use my phone, Patty. They've got to have that back. I'm taking you off base so you can talk to them and mail that." She looked up at him. "It's all right." She nodded, grabbing shoes and a longer pair of shorts to put on, following him down. "Tro." She looked up. "Ruby dropped one of the bracelets the slayers wear in front of me and LJ. I'm taking her off for a few hours so she can call and mail it back." That got a nod. "You guys on tonight?"
"Alpha's out hunting Spike."
"I wish them all luck then," he said dryly, walking her out. Gibbs was standing in front of the training rooms. "Yup, that's our room and my office is the green door," he admitted. "We're taking her off so she can call and mail it back."
"That's fine. Hi, Patty."
"Patty, this is LJ, he's a Marine and helping me in training." She nodded at that. He gave her shoulders a squeeze. They ran into the director and he held up the bracelet. "My cousin designed them for the slayers. I've been trying to figure out if we could work something similar in dogtags. Was Rudy on assignment?"
"No, he wasn't. Was she violent?"
"Linia was the sweetest, most happy girl!" Patty said, glaring at her. "How dare you call her violent! She didn't even want to stake vampires!" The director blinked at that. "They had to show her why violence was necessary now and then. If you'll excuse me I need to call my sisters and send this back." She stomped off with LJ behind her. "I'm sorry about my manners," she said once they were in the elevator.
"You're how old?"
She looked at him. "Twenty."
He snorted. "Try again. I know you're jail bait."
"She's fifteen," Xander called, looking at the director. "She's just lost one of her friends. Cut the kid some slack. I looked up their number recently and I'm letting her use my phone."
"Why not mail it from here?"
"Because she's fifteen and she just lost a friend she trained and lived with, Director. That'd be like you losing a sorority sister right after graduation." He walked off.
"How did you know? And how did you get their number?"
"They're in the phone book under Rosenburg's name and of course you were a sorority sister. The sneer proved it. You went through one of the snotty bitch ones." He turned to glare at her. "She's fifteen!"
"Fine," she said, backing down. "Protect the child."
"I plan on it, even if she is doing limited hunting." He got onto the elevator and headed down to the car, tossing Gibbs the keys. "I hate that she expects the kid to be mature and adult about this."
"I wouldn't expect anyone not to react to a friend dying," he said calmly. "I'm sure the other girls are mourning too." He walked around to get in and drive. Xander got into the front passenger's seat, handing his phone back. She got into the recent calls menu and found the number, calling it, talking quietly as they headed out. "She going to be okay?"
"If she's dead, Linia's not the first," Xander said quietly. "Third since they all got called. It was one of them dying that made Xander leave for Africa and hunting down more of the girls." That got a nod. He looked back at her, then threw the bug into the bag under the seat that someone had installed. He had felt the lead bag when he got in. Patty looked at him. "Did they find her?"
She nodded. "There was a baby hellhound there with her. She was killed by something else. They think it was something like a banshee." She handed over the phone. "Willow."
He listened to her say how sorry she was. "What happened? Well, let's see, I saw Tricia and she was pretty untrained," he noted dryly. "Patty's fine. I've got her with a good team and they're watching out for her." He slumped and nodded, holding his head. "That's why they're not supposed to go out alone, Miss Rosenburg. Yes, we are. No, I'm here with LJ, my training helper." He smirked at Gibbs. "Miss Rosenburg said to tell your agent his sister's cranky and itchy but fine." Gibbs nodded at that. "That's fine. I took her off base so she could mail it back to you. Should I be on the lookout for any others? Mr. Finn mentioned a few had run this way before he got eaten that first day." He snorted. "No, a pack came for the hellhound puppy they had and were testing," he sneered. "They ate a number of people on the base. Not that one. No, Ruby protected me. Young puppy, male, bright red ruff. That would probably be him or his little sister. She's adorable and likes petted. They both have a talent for going after the most violent. Which is why I wasn't sure why that particular one was eaten by her reputation. Also, you might make a note to your girls that Spike was last spotted in DC and could be coming to fulfill his fondest dreams of guts and blood." He nodded. "I will." He handed the phone back to her, letting her out of the car once they had parked. He looked at Gibbs, then around the car again. "I'm damn tired of watching people die," he sighed.
Gibbs nodded. "It never gets easier, kid. Never." He gave him a pat on the arm. "Are you okay?"
"No. I hate breaking things like this to little kids." He stared at her back. "That's why my cousin left."
Gibbs set something on his dashboard and Patty had to move away from the jammer. "All but magical." Xander nodded, pointing at something behind them. "You can tell?"
"Yup." He turned around and grabbed it by stretching over the back of the seat, putting it into the lead bag too. Then he looked at him. "The last one that died was my protege," he said quietly. "Linia was one I went to get personally. She was the sweetest, most gentle girl, Gibbs," he said miserably. "Buffy sent her out alone because she thought she was old enough."
"That's not tactical."
"It's also not practical." He sighed and sat properly again. "I don't know if I can continue with this stuff. It's starting to show me how close I am to Spike's souless state."
"You can handle it and then head home."
Xander looked at him. "If I head home, I'm fixing shit," he said, shrugging. "That hunting alone shit? It'll stop. That sending out girls Patty's age? It'll stop. Gods, we need someone with experience training. I can't believe she put Riley in charge."
Patty got back in and handed him back the phone. "Are we safe?" He nodded. "She didn't want to but Faith and she got into a screaming match about how he had actually trained people and Buffy hadn't. So no, she's back to being the Buffy zombie again." Xander shook his head. "You left to do this?" He nodded. "Why?"
"Because someone had to," he admitted. She nodded and slumped down. "You okay enough?"
"I want ice cream." Xander nodded and they headed off again. "This sucks majorly. I shared a room with Linia for six weeks!"
"I know," Xander assured her. "It's always hard watching them die, Patty. When it's in battle it's easier because you can rationalize it as they died for a reason. When it's like that there's not one and you can't." She nodded, sniffling again. "Go ahead and cry. It'll make you feel better and we're not going to say anything."
"Does he...." Xander nodded. "Oh."
"You cannot tell," Gibbs said quietly. "Not everyone on the base would like that I work for NCIS during the days."
She nodded, wiping her eyes. "I won't. Can I trust anyone else?"
"Trust Tro to keep you alive and safe," Xander told her. "Trust your team to have your back." She nodded and her chin lifted. "LJ has a helper on his team who's helping me with training. His name's Tony DiNozzo."
"Got it." She gave him a sad smile. "Buffy said one of his agents has one of us as a sister?"
"McGee's sister is up there," Gibbs told her.
"Sophie?" she guessed. He shrugged. "Rory?"
"Oh, Tabitha." She nodded. "I like her, she's nice. Even if she did smack Buffy verbally for letting her fall down the stairs because she didn't replace the lights in the stairwell." Xander groaned, leaning his head back. She leaned forward and patted him on the shoulder. "If we had people like you and your cousin we'd do better," she soothed. "It's not your fault she's a bottle blonde and it got into her brain." He smirked at her for that. "It did. She made me go out alone. I took Dawn as backup." Xander glared. "She's a Watcher candidate."
"Uh-huh. She's how old?"
"You should both be concentrating on school and boyfriends, not hunting," Gibbs said grimly, squeezing the steering wheel. "I'm going to call McGee to meet us."
"Sure," Rory agreed. "Ice ceam, LJ, then mailing it back." That got a nod and he pulled into a small strip mall that had both. He handed Patty his wallet, getting a nod. She went to mail it back to them, bringing him back his wallet short five dollars more than it should be. He raised an eyebrow.
"Tampons. She ordered the cheap kind that sit on the lollipop stick and I can't use them." She walked into the ice cream shop, going up to the counter where Gibbs was, leaning against his arm. "Am I supposed to be tired?" she asked quietly.
"I always am, kid." He patted her on the back of the head. "Get something. We'll pay." She stepped up to put in her order, Xander behind her with a simple sundae with hot sauce. He looked at the kid. "You seem more like one of the people who eats the garbage sundaes."
"Not today I'm not. It's been a long day." He took his over to his table, letting her have his wallet again to pay. He caught her sneaking money. "You get a salary." She grinned and put the ten back, coming over to sit between them since it was a half-circle table. "Payday's next week if we survive that long."
"There's always hope when there's survival," Patty quoted. Xander smirked at her and nodded. "Yes, I'm quoting a quote." She looked at Gibbs. "So, what did you do before you got recruited by our wonderful overlord of hell?"
"NCIS. Before that I was a Marine. I'm a Gunny."
She nodded. "My mom's in the Navy Reserves. She's a secretary for someone." She shrugged. "She said it's made her life better but I think she's boring most of the time."
"Being a secretary can be boring," Gibbs admitted. "Depending on what you're working on." He ate a bite of his ice cream, looking up when his younger agent and Tony came in. He nodded and McGee got himself something to drink and came over, climbing over the back of the seat to sit next to Patty. "Patty, this is Tim McGee."
"You do look like Tabby."
He smiled. "She hated being called that."
"She still does but she hisses at Buffy now and then like a cat."
Tony pulled a chair to the front of the table and sat, scanning around the place. "We all alright?"
"We're fine but Ruby brought a bracelet like the girls wear," Xander said quietly, eating another bite. McGee looked at him. "Yes, those. With the trackers and the life monitors. He or another one from his pack was sitting beside her to guard her body when they found her. Linia." He ate another bite.
"Buffy said a banshee probably got her," Patty said quietly. McGee gave her a hug. She relaxed against him. "You're good at that." She looked up at him. "Can you adopt me as a sister? Tabs is fussy but it's okay with me."
"What about your biological parents?" he asked. She shrugged. "Not good?"
"Not bad. Boring. They really haven't tried to understand me. Mom's very anti-war. Dad's a hippie Wiccan priest." Xander choked at that. "What? He is."
Xander looked at her. "Why is your mom working in the Pentagon if she's anti-war? She could've been reassigned."
"Um... Not a clue," she admitted, shrugging. "Maybe she's keeping track of what's going on for someone?" she suggested, looking at him, then at Gibbs. "Please don't arrest her."
"I'm not planning on it unless she's breaking the law," he assured her. She shrugged. "Rory, Georgia?"
Rory snorted. "I sent that email."
"We never got one," McGee told him.
"Ah. They're filtering for me again. Work on the higher level geek squad to rebuild them first, LJ." He shrugged. "Right now they've fallen back to only having a few targets. Spike being one," he said, nodding outside. Patty looked and moaned. "You, stay." He got up and headed out, glaring at him. "What the fuck are you doing in DC?"
"Should ask the same," he said bitterly, staring at him. "Heard I did."
"You sound like Yoda," Xander said dryly, slapping him. "Go to Cleveland, please?"
"If you stay you're gonna go poof, Spike. Xander wanted you around to annoy the shit outta Buffy and to keep Dawn from going on patrols with girls like Patty." Spike dropped his cigarette and stomped it out. "What happened to Dawn?"
"She's injured." Xander stiffened and stared at him. "You think they can beat me?"
Xander moved closer. "I trained the first two teams correctly. They're the backup," he said quietly. "You're being hunted in a high profile area. Injured how?"
"Ran into something bigger and it tried to snap her neck," he said honestly. "I threatened to turn her and she said she'd rather as long as Red can soul her pretty quickly." He sneered. "You with them now?"
"Go ask the blonde one," he sneered back. Spike gave him an incredulous look. "Bastard! Go bother them! They just had another girl die, go gloat!"
"I'm not like that but I did promise."
"They're not the same staff. They're in the regular military."
"Huh. Interesting. Fine. Anyone I can have?"
"You can have the director if you want."
"Had her, she was nummy. Cute redhead."
"Ours is a brunette," he said calmly. Spike shrugged. "Go to Cleveland. Let the girls up there take care of you. Or else I will stake you, Spike."
"Won't," he said with a smirk. He saw Xander pull out the stake. "Hey, now!" He backed off and Xander opened his other hand, showing him the small charm. His eyes widened and he backed away more quickly. "No need for that." Xander staked him with the charm and stake in the same hand, watching as the body was sucked into the charm instead of turning to dust.
"Yes I will." He walked off to mail the stake and charm back to Willow, then went back to his sundae. He called the base. "Tro, me. Take him off the hunt list." He hung up and looked at her. "I got this neat charm off him so I mailed it back to Buffy."
She stared, eyes wide. "You did what?" He gave her a look and she swallowed, nodding. "Charm, huh? From Spike?"
"Yup. Looked like something Dru would wear. A teddybear thing."
"I'll let her know it's coming when I call her later from the base." He nodded at that, giving her a gentle smirk. "Buffy won't be happy."
"Yay," he said dryly. They shared a look and he smirked and wiggled an eyebrow, making her grin. "Eat, I've got to get you back to the base tonight." She nodded, digging in again. He looked at Gibbs. "After this, I'm heading to Cleveland. They obviously need help since Miss Summers let her sister go out on a hunt and she's not like Patty."
"She got pretty badly banged up. I tried, Mr. Condry. That's why I came down," she admitted quietly. "I knew I wasn't supposed to hunt alone. Your cousin said so." He nodded at that. "I even picked a safer path since I only had Dawnie with me. She still got pounced and nearly killed." She swallowed hard. "Is she okay?"
"Spike said he had threatened to turn her but he didn't say that he did." She relaxed and nodded. "Check later. If this project falls though I'm going up there to apply to teach them. Someone has to have some brains."
She nodded. "Yeah, hunting alone when you've got thirty of us isn't necessary." She finished her ice cream and looked at Tim then back at him. "If it does fall through can I drag him home?"
"His sister might mind but I wouldn't care. He's got sense if LJ trusts him."
Tony nodded. "He's also a better hacker than the one you've got on staff," he offered with a grin. "So's Abby."
"You guys work with Abby?" Patty asked. "I love Abby. She's a neat and great woman. She comes up all the time to help us with stuff." She smiled at Tim. "Would you come home with me?" she begged. "Abby could find you a great place to live and the Council would pay you because Willow gets tons."
"I'll think about it," he promised, patting her on the head. "You done?" She nodded. "Boss?"
"Nearly done, McGee." He finished his ice cream too. He looked at Xander. "What's your plans for tonight?"
"It's starting to look more and more like a bottle and a nap." Gibbs looked at him. "It is."
"Let's go over what we're doing this upcoming week first, then you can have that bottle and a nap."
"Fine. Let's get her back to base. DiNozzo included?"
"He probably should be. McGee, get Abby to find me a list of people with the qualifications he already sent over." It was handed over. "That was fast," he joked.
"She was pouting at our director earlier."
"Speaking of, your director, she's a redhead, right?" They all paused and nodded. "Spike said he ate a redheaded director." Tony walked off already calling. "Sorry, he thought it was our other director. Last I knew she was still a brunette."
"We'll find out and he'll tell me. McGee, go home, call your sister. We're taking her back to base." He got out and they all headed with him. They dropped Patty off with Tro since she was out for a smoke break. Gibbs nodded and she nodded back.
"Pleasure," she said, shaking his hand. "I heard about your work. How's our training looking?"
"He dusted Spike," Patty said, grinning at her. "Then he fed me ice cream and let me call home. I've got to call Willow again." He handed over his phone and shrugged at Tro, who looked amused. "He did."
"He did," Gibbs agreed. "They were discussing something?"
"I told him he should be in Cleveland bothering the girls."
"He should have been," Tro agreed. "Alpha team caught it on film." She smirked at him. "Summers?"
"Which one? There's two," Xander said dryly.
"The younger one."
"Is Patty's age and my cousin's favorite. She's mouthy, smart, and just like him."
"Interesting." She stared at him. "When are you going to replace some of my team?" He pointed at Patty. She rolled her eyes. "She's one."
"I know. We've got to concentrate on the geek squad. Borrow and retrain the others."
"Half of them slacked since you let them go."
"Then kick their asses," he said firmly. "If they slacked, they deserve it."
"True," she agreed, smirking at him, looking just a bit evil. "So, you sent the stake to her?"
"And a small note about it being his ashes." He shrugged. "That way the girls don't have to worry. Though, if I ever do leave here, I'm going up there to kick asses back into shape. I *know* my cousin didn't let girls Patty's age hunt alone."
Patty looked at him. "Willow groaned."
"Good." He frowned at her. "She shouldn't."
"I know that, you know that, she probably knows that, but Buffy's in charge."
"Not when Xander gets back," he said with a small grin. She laughed and walked off, still chatting with Willow about what happened and McGee. He looked at Gibbs. "Wanna come? They could use common sense."
"We'll see." He looked at Tro again. "How many do you need realistically?"
"Two more. Six was too big of a team for most hunting missions. We always had one guy in the truck." He nodded at that. "Give me two good ones."
"You and Alpha team get replacements from within," Xander reminded her. "You and Chuck both pick and we'll retrain, fix, and make less slacking so they know they can work with the team."
"Fine, if I must."
"It's better. I'm not going to be getting off finding geeks for a few weeks. It'll leave us with five hunting teams but oh well. Bring me the new guys you want tomorrow with your team. We'll test them against Patty and work on her training too." That got a nod and she mashed out her cigarette, taking the phone and tossing it back to him before walking her chick inside. Xander listened to the huffy voice. "My cousin would *never* let young girls go hunting by themselves, Miss Rosenburg. I will be telling him that his favorite of all of them got hurt doing that." He hung up and looked at him. "Do you need the refresher list?"
"No, this should be good enough." He walked him back to the car. "We'll go use one of the safehouses."
"Sure. Less bugs." He nodded politely at the team pulling in, waving them over. "Guys, Chuck, LJ. LJ, this is Chuck, head of Alpha team," he introduced, waving at the very tall Indian man who came out from behind the wheel. "Didn't the other guys have licenses?"
"I don't trust them to drive. Half of them are morons."
"Like I told Tro, you guys get first pick of staff from the other teams. I will gladly work on them for you." He smirked. "Have you met Patty?"
"I have. Charming girl," he admitted, shaking Gibbs' hand. "I've heard about you and how good your team is. Welcome to the Initiative, Agent Gibbs."
"Thank you, Chuck. Do we need to do any filling in on your team or any training?"
"Could use some practice." He looked at Xander. "You nagged him first?"
"Yeah, my cousin and he had a nagging relationship. Xander used to tie him to his armchair when he was babysitting him and he needed to sleep." That got a laugh. He shrugged. "The group took care of him when he got chipped. I'm a close enough relative so I got nagging rights too. Pissed him off, and me."
"I ran a hospital check on Summers. She'll be okay."
"Good to know. She's still Patty's age." They shared a look. "Your guys know?"
"Two of my guys are like her big brothers," he promised.
"Good. I still worry about a few of the guards."
"Worry about your director. She's a bit unpredictable," Gibbs noted quietly.
"She understands that I'm here because my goals and hers mesh," Xander pointed out. "The same as yours do." Chuck smiled at that. "Let me guess, you heard about her poisoning attempt?"
"Yes, I am," he agreed with an evil smirk, making him choke and walk off shaking his head. "I'll be in late tomorrow but I'll be here. Bring them in for training."
"Yes, Rory. Tomorrow at ten." He waved a hand as he got back in and headed inside.
Xander looked at him. "I did a good job with his and Tro's team."
"I can tell. They're mostly alive and that tape of the fight with Spike where she lost hers, I couldn't see another way. You need more people like that."
"Hopefully some day Patty will be," he admitted, heading back to the car. "Where are we going?"
"Safehouse," he said, getting in to drive. He took him to one he wasn't supposed to know about, finding Tony there already and set up. He nodded at him as they got out, going to put the jammers up. "Everyone but ours, including something Abby said would work on any magical ones," he said quietly. Xander took off his shirt and turned around, making him hiss. "When was that put in?"
"Two days ago. I took a quick nap at my desk without realizing it. Can it be removed?"
"Yup." He gave him a horrified look and Xander winked at that. "You sure?"
"For half-hours at a time. Then it was. Now it's not. It buzzes when it's activated."
Gibbs moved closer. "I can get Ducky to look at that. It looks infected."
"Thanks. I don't need more infections. Bad enough I got one from the water since our purification system went on the blink." He turned back around, shrugging some. "Sorry."
"No, it's all right." His phone beeped with a text message. "Our director will be fine, Ducky and Abby saved her."
"Joy." He sat down. "Okay, so we're identifying evil geniuses in the mind control and body control fields?"
"I've found a few listed online. I'm not sure if they'd fall in line."
"There's money, power, and prestige in the job, LJ. Most of them will because someone's going to be paying attention finally. Anything I should know?"
"One's totally legit. He's using body control to help quadriplegics walk." He handed over the USB key, letting him plug it into his PDA to read it. "He's got a good handle on his work."
"I don't want to break into his work, I want to use his skills as ours." He looked at him. "It could be a big help to some soldiers."
"It could be," he agreed quietly. He stared at him. Xander shrugged and nodded backward at the implant. "True. It could be. If we could find an assistant who was a bit less ethical and make sure he was up to date with the research, it might help more."
"It'd be more practical and there's always some. A grad student, an assistant." That got a nod. "I usually look at them. If you're that sort of evil genius, you don't usually make it to well-known. You make it to joked about."
"I hadn't thought about that. I'll have him look for those sort. The other two even list themselves as evil geniuses."
Xander looked them over then nodded. "Both in good fields. Someone might even figure out how to fix the machine if I break it this time." He handed it back and relaxed. "Sounds good. Send me profiles. I'll do the backgrounds if you want."
"We can. The research could become beneficial in other applications."
"Sure." He smiled at him. "She's a firecracker."
"Patty is," he agreed, shaking his head. "She's still only fifteen."
"Not my choice and Tro's agreed to keep her out of the field as much as possible until she's sixteen. Plus she's the chick and rookie on the team, LJ. She's got protection that the other girls don't if they're hunting alone."
"True," he sighed, shaking his head. "It's still too young."
"I know. So does she. The original plan was to train them until they graduated high school and keep them hunting in pairs unless there was an emergency. Then when they went to college sending the girls to various areas together or in trios. Then apparently Miss Summers changed it," he said, sounding a bit frustrated. "Her own sister!" he said coldly, going limp. "How in the hell can you do that to your own sister?"
"I don't know," he admitted quietly. "It's wrong." He glanced around then back at him. "Are you sure they're not on the same side and working together?" he asked quietly. "A lot of what you do here is applicable there and it might help the girls."
"I would hope not," he admitted, staring at him. "If I suddenly disappear and you hear the shriek of the Yokohama machine, let me know, okay?" That got a nod. "Thanks. Now, anyone in the geek scientist squad?"
"There's a few discredited doctors and the like," he admitted. "They'd know best as long as they were clean. I don't want to work with anyone who's building a new torture library."
"Me either. For now, let's concentrate on these three. See if we can get someone around them or them. Because if you take someone too well known and watched, it'll raise flags. Especially if they were doing stuff to help people who're unable to move and then go into the military suddenly. You don't do things like that without having a personal reason."
"True," Gibbs agreed. "We'll see what we can find. I'll let you have a list of possibles in a few days?"
"Sure, that'll work. In the meantime I'll still be working with the present hunt teams." His phone rang and he answered it. "Condry." He listened. "Because, Director, if we take someone like that out of the limelight people wonder where they went. Besides, these top guys are focused on their ideas for a particular reason. Getting someone younger and more flexible, but trained by the people, means that we get new ideas and new methods. Plus we listen to them, which is what a lot of these guys who'll never make it into the spotlight want. At least half the guys who're being assistants won't make it into the top of the research cauldron. They'll be the quiet professor sort. That's why we take them. No one will miss them, they'll want the chance to prove themselves just as capable, and they'll have ideas that no one's listened to. Because a guy who's curing paralysis is doing it for selfish reasons. He won't use it to cure soldiers on the battlefield. He'll use it to cure his mother or whoever was afflicted. His assistants are judging it by wanting to go into the field and for the prestige factor. That's why you get grad students. Plus, they work cheaper." He smirked. "I thought that might. Anyone else I have to find?" He nodded, rolling his eyes. "I will, Director. Thank you." He hung up. "She wants someone who can fix the mind wiping machine when I break it the next time."
"I'll see what I can do," he offered dryly, smirking at him.
"I do love destroying that thing," he said dryly, grinning. "Want to share a bottle? I hate drinking alone."
"No thanks. Go get screwed at a club. They'll buy you drinks."
"True." He grinned. "Good idea, LJ, and I wouldn't be alone either." He stood up and put back on his shirt. "Give it to me by Thursday so I can go out this weekend. Cases willing of course. I know your boss still has you working other cases?"
"Oh, yeah. Had one of those this week."
"Me too." He stood up. "Stay safe."
"I'll try. Keep the boys and girl safe too. Watch out for what's-her-name. She's still dangerous." He winked and mouthed the word 'mole' getting a smirk and a nod. "Good deal. Laters." He headed out, going out to a nearby club to drink with people who wouldn't mind him grieving for a bit. "I need to find a place like Callahan's," he muttered as he walked. He took off his eyepatch and looked at it, then groaned and flagged down Tony when he drove past, tossing it at him. That got a nod when he saw the small camera. Fortunately he still had the fake eye in, even if it was infected today. At least he couldn't get pink eye in that one. He went into the bar and sat down. "Crappy day," he sighed. "Beer me?"
"I walked. I'll cab."
"Whatever's cheapest I can get drunk with." That got an understanding look and the bartender poured him some from the tap, handing it over. Xander handed him a twenty. "Tell me when I run out?"
"Sure, kid." He started a tab for him and went to get someone else a refill.
The Director sneered at Xander when she ran into him in the morning. "Headache?"
"I've got drunks all through the family. No." He looked at her. "Neat trick with the module in my back." He handed it to her. Gibbs had woken him up this morning with an old guy who had removed it for him. "I've got enough fake parts already." He went into his office, finding the black roses. "Awww. My favorite flower." Two of the security guys walked in behind the director. "I'll break the machine again."
"I'm going to shoot you, you're a traitor."
"Prove it." She played the tape sitting on his desk. He shrugged. "My cousin and I talk. Yay. I spent a few weeks with him helping. We worked out routes and things." She gave him a horrified look. "It was a joint decision that letting the girls out alone was stupid and homicidal of the people sending them out. Hell yes I'm pissed. Dawn Summers was a vivacious, energetic, happy young woman. I'm hoping she heals. She's both our favorites."
"I still can't find mention of your cousin."
"And? He's in Africa last I knew. He was hunting down some tribal slayers to see how they did it and if any of them wanted to come in."
"Why would tribes need slayers?" one of the guards asked.
"They're also exceptional hunters and protectors for the tribe. They're also counted as shaman or their helpers now and then due to the slayer dreams. He met a few he told me about who were nearly thought of as men because of what they were. They hunted with the men, they helped the men, they had all the rights of men." That got an amazed look. "The Watcher's Council never went after the tribes. They considered it too hard to reprogram them. So he's learning and hunting with a tribe and talking to the slayers down there. He thinks there's been more than one slayer for years, that there's been a tribal one and one in the supposedly civilized world."
"You don't think we're civilized?" she sneered.
"Not when you send your kid sister out to hunt alone. No." She snorted and stomped out. "Anything else or am I free to find you new geeks?" he called after her.
"Find me more personnel, Mr. Condry. Remember, I have your replacement."
"LJ doesn't know a thing about demons, he's in to do the regular training." She gaped at him in horror. "Really." He smirked. "He's here because I needed help with the regular training. The stuff that'll save those soldier's lives in the field at a later date. I handle the demon stuff, he handles the weapons and other training. We've already worked that out, Director." He smiled sweetly. "Anything else?" She huffed off. He shrugged at the security guards, who shrugged back. "We've got to start tracking her cycles. She goes through the phases of PMS." She shrieked from up the hall. "Huh. She's listening." He handed over the tape and waved. "Have fun, boys."
"Yes, Rory," they agreed, heading out. They'd be seeing him later, it was the guard's day for PT.
Xander sat down to go over his email and sniff his roses. He did like black roses.
Xander looked up when someone knocked on his office door. "I'm still here."
"We were wondering why you weren't in the arena," Tony said as he walked in with a list. "Three good choices, one in each, and a backup choice in case they're too hard." He grinned. "Isn't there supposed to be security?"
Xander tapped something into the computer and groaned, shaking his head. "There is. Did you have to sign in or anything?"
"No." Xander tapped in another code on the computer and someone screamed and jumped away from the wall. He tapped the button on the phone. "Guys, Mr. DiNozzo is here." He hung up and shook his head. "Support and reminder meeting," he sighed, looking at him. "She's made a demand."
"Huh." He sat down. "So, even if you can't use them Gibbs thinks we can use the spare for research for the military and he's got contacts."
"That's good." One of the guards rushed in. "Support meeting?"
"She did demand, Rory. This is?"
"LJ's second, Tony DiNozzo." He looked at him. "He's helping LJ with the training stuff."
"Sure. Let's get you registered, Special Agent DiNozzo." Tony grinned and stood up, walking off with him. "Sorry about that. The director demands we hold support meetings and stuff weekly."
"I guess it helps when you're stuck in a super secret project." He scratched his ear and nodded, grinning slightly. "It's not a big thing. Patty told me where his office was."
"Oh, hell. She'll tell Tro, and she'll yell at us."
"If the director said so, you've got to do it, even if you question if it's wise. No few left out who can do it later?"
"We did until the hellhounds got here. Can we maybe get some more guards too?"
"I'll add it to Gibbs' list." He grinned as he stepped up to the machine to register retina scans. "We have one of these at work." He let it read his and then his handprint. That got a smile from him. "Gibbs was wondering about this mind wiping machine. Do we have to find someone who can fix it or someone who can work it?"
"I don't know, what did Rory say?"
"He said we needed to find someone for the next time he broke it but he also said the guy who invented it got eaten."
"He did, and we all had a beer that night in honor of that feat since he was really creepy." He looked at him. "I'm not supposed to show you."
"Can you tell me anything about it so I know what I'm looking for other than mind control? I mean, crystals, chemicals, lights? There's all sorts of ways."
"It's mostly crystal resonance and lights plus some hypnotic suggestions as far as I can tell but I've only seen it in action once or twice." His boss came in. "This is LJ's second, sir, Tony DiNozzo."
"I heard Rory." He shook his hand. "The Yokohama machine?"
"The director suggested Gibbs find someone to fix it and Rory said they'd need it after he broke it again, but we're wondering if we should find someone who can *run* it as well and what fields we needed to look in. Rory wasn't very specific. Just that the maker had been eaten after being turned and that he had been able to break it."
"I can show you. It might help. A few of the guys who didn't pass hunter training might make good guards and we could use some."
"Your boy here said you needed more and I'm putting it on my list." He grinned. "I wouldn't mind a peek. That way I know which field to search online for."
"Sure." He walked him down the hall again and off a side hallway. He looked at him. "Is Gibbs a hardass like Polly said?"
"He can be. He expects perfection from his team. No joking during cases, no slacking off during cases. He's told us we couldn't eat for a few extra hours during bad cases." That got a sigh and a nod. "We're here to do the regular training."
"Good point." He unlocked the door and let him inside. "Near as any of us can figure the crystals resonate and bring down any mental shields you might've put up. The lights twinkle and put you into a hypnotic state, and then someone does the suggestions."
"Interesting." He walked over to look it over, nodding slowly. "Looks like there's some small vials of chemicals?"
"I'm guessing that's to lock it in so you can't remember." He shrugged. "If you do find someone, maybe some of the failed hunters could be guards."
"It's a good idea and they'd have a clue," he agreed, smiling at him then nodding at the director when she came in looking amused. "If you need someone to work it or fix it, I needed to know what areas to look in, ma'am." He straightened up. "Tony DiNozzo, Gibbs' second." He shook her hand. "Rory's said some things about you," he offered with a happy smile. "I work with Gibbs so I understand what a hardass a boss has to be sometimes."
"At least you didn't listen to all his complaints," she offered, smirking up at him. "Do we think we can find someone?"
"I don't know, ma'am. May I take pictures? It could help during the recruitment hunt. Or even a dossier on the original scientist?"
"I can give you his dossier." She went to the computer and typed in a code, printing it out for him. She gathered it and flipped through it before handing it over. "Most people do this for a few reasons, why are you here?"
"I'm watching Gibbs' back. Our team is like a family. He watches mine and saves my life, I do the same for him," he said seriously. "We all owe Gibbs our loyalty and trust. If he says this is a worthwhile project, I'm more than happy to help Rory recruit."
"Good." She patted him on the cheek, dragging her fingers over him. "Did your hidden camera pick up enough pictures?" She pointed at the one on his shirt collar. He pulled out the pen and showed it to her, letting her see that it wasn't a camera. "Hmm. I thought it was."
"No, he's monitoring me to make sure I don't flirt," he offered with a sweet and boyish grin. "He's always worried about that." He took the pen back and put it back where it had been. "If I had been wearing a camera it probably would've been my phone. I left it in the car so no one would have to worry about security issues. What do you think of the guards' idea that they get some of the failed hunters for their helpers?"
"I wouldn't mind. It would save on manpower." She smirked at her commander. "Good job."
"Myself and Henders, Director," he said modestly.
"That the guy who met me?" He nodded. "He did come to me first and I think it's a good idea. Rory?" he called.
A few seconds later the phone rang and the guard answered it. "Gibbs called to tell me to call. What's up?"
"Turning some of the people you won't pass for being too unskilled into guards," the director noted.
"If we can unfreeze the training class three back, we had a whole crop of them," he agreed. "It'd be a matter of breaking the programming, Director. It would also save me retraining them and wasting more time and frustration."
"I'll see if we can figure out how to undo it," she decided, hanging up. "You'll both get bonuses this week," she told them, walking out.
"Remember the other guy," Tony called after her. "Bonuses make people more loyal. They feel wanted and needed." He looked at the guard commander. "I tried if she forgets," he said quietly.
He nodded. "It's not the first time. I split mine with my guys if they don't get one for good ideas." That got a smile. "I know the value of a loyal force."
"Gibbs does too. You regular military?"
"Former. Most of us are former. We couldn't get assigned here since it's a special operations project. Not high enough in the ratings."
"Sure, I get that. Let me get this back to Gibbs and let him look over the file of failed people Rory sent him so we can mark the ones we think might be good." That got a nod and the guard led him back to the elevator. "Thanks, man."
"Welcome, sir, and next time you come in we'll do the orientation tour we did with your boss. That way you know where the infirmary is."
"Sure. Thanks, man." He grinned and headed down to his car, heading back to work. Abby took the keys once he got out to search for bugs. He headed upstairs, taking off the small necklace camera and antenna he had been wearing. He handed it to McGee, who smiled. "Got it?"
"Fully," he agreed. "Is that the profile?" It was handed over. "I'll see if there's anyone else interested in his work." He went back to his seat.
Tony looked at Gibbs, who smirked at him. "It was kinda scary, boss. She gave me that same look and it was like one of Kate's upset and constipated looks." McGee burst out in snickers at that. "You got that look a few times," he agreed.
"So did I," Gibbs admitted with a fond smile. "None on you?" Tony peeled off the small, colorless patch that was a transmitter, handing it over to him before going back down to let Abby search him for others, including on the pen. Gibbs looked at it, it was only as big as the end of his finger. "McGee, come see this." He came over, staring in surprise and happiness. "Find me more on these. We could use these on the job." He handed it over carefully.
"Yes, boss. It's a great design." He carefully carried it back to his workstation, pulling out his magnifying goggles to look at it. He found a name on it and looked it up, pushing up his goggles so he could read. Abby brought him a few more bugs and he showed her.
She squealed. "I saw those! They're so neat!" she said, very close to it, winking at him. He grinned back. "We need tester models of that one so I can make sure they'll work in the field and the radius, McGee. Get me some! Now!" she ordered, taking it down to her lab with the other bugs to catalog them and see what they could use. She even turned up her music *really* loud in honor of having open connections. It was so loud even Ducky gave her a dirty look when he came in. She held up one and he just nodded and walked off, going back to work. She beamed and got back to work, happy with this new task. She hated these people and every little bit of evidence helped.
Xander finished his final battle movement for this plan and this agency, getting up and heading to start working on it. He knew the guards were loyal to her because she paid the paychecks. The same as he knew that even Gibbs would use him as a pawn if he had to. After all, he wasn't part of his team. He nodded at the guard as he walked past him. "Going to get more coffee."
"Sure." He watched him go then went to snoop in his office, finding a battle plan on his desk. He frowned, tracing it. Then he copied it and took it to his boss, still frowning. "That was on Condry's desk, boss."
He looked it over then at him. "Let me handle this." That got a nod and his guy walked off, absolved of all guilt. "What are you doing, idiot?" he muttered. He found Xander on his trek back and shoved him against the wall. "We would've if you had asked," he hissed.
Xander grinned. "That's what I'm counting on." The guard's eyes went wide and he glanced around. "Who do you think plans things?" he whispered. That got a hard swallow. "Beautiful play, man, follow through."
"But..." He nodded up the hall. "The machine," he whispered.
Xander winked at that. "Not an issue." That got a horrified look. "Have you noticed the children?" That got a harsh, fast nod. "So have I. Do you want to see them out there?"
"No," he moaned. "Come to me."
"You're doing exactly what I want you to do," he assured him. The guard moaned. "Got me here?"
"Fine." He walked off, straightening himself out. He walked into the director's office. "She got a few?" She nodded and let him in, so he walked in and put the plan in front of her. "One of my guys found it, ma'am," he said quietly.
"Any idea why?"
"Children." She gave him a horrified look. "We have some." He stood up. "Which we don't like either. Satan's puppy dog was one thing, Director, but the others are kids screaming for their mother. My guys won't go for it. I'm having to reassign people so they don't know and don't see."
"I see." She relaxed. "Are you loyal to me?"
"I'm loyal to my check," he said honestly.
She nodded. "There'll be a bonus for you. I'll handle this."
"Maybe if we got rid of the kids? I mean, they're kids! How are they going to handle a war zone?"
"You don't have to worry about that."
"Yes, ma'am," he said, backing down. "If you say it'll be all right, it'll be all right." He saluted her and left, hoping and praying Rory knew what he was doing. He got into his profile, looking at the associated files. There was a new mention in the kid's cousin's file. He read it and suddenly got it. His cousin wasn't a real person. He was a turned one somehow. He was part demon. It explained so much! He erased the note saying that his uncle's only child had died and went back to rearranging his staff. They trusted him and he knew the kids would be gone within a few days. Then again, they might not have jobs. Or maybe LJ would see the sense in it? He started to write him an email then thought better of it and closed out that screen. He went to find Patty, finding her going out for a run. "There's a good park out here," he said, writing down an address. She looked at it. "Go there, it's a nice path to run on." She nodded. He handed over another note when he smiled at her. "Have a good run and be safe."
"I always am." She smiled and waved. "Tell Tro I'm fine." That got a nod and she headed out to catch a bus. On the bus she looked at the address and the note. Then she nodded. She called NCIS. "May I please speak to Special Agent DiNozzo? No, this is a personal call, not about a case, but he'll talk to me. Thank you." She smiled. "Tony, it's Patty. I'm going for a run and I wanted to know if you'd go with me." She grimaced. "No, I'm not sure if someone's following me or not," she admitted. "The guard commander suggested I try a park near your office. Thanks. Sure, even that would be fine," she promised, smiling at his assurance and calm manner. "Thanks. No, he's not sure if there was a threat or not. Thank you, Tony." She hung up and got onto the subway when the bus stopped, heading out where she needed to go. The information guy was very helpful and not someone she knew - and she knew *everyone* at the Initiative's base now. Xander had made sure of it. She had known it had been him. He had trained her and used the same moves. She got off the subway and jogged toward a park, smiling at McGee, who nodded and sipped his coffee, heading back to the office. She jogged past where Tony was, leaning down to kiss him on the cheek. "Thank you." She slipped him the note as subtly as she could. "Rory and Tro are being picky about my training."
"They should be. It'll save your life some day," he offered, smiling at her. "Take the right path, go past the water, then turn around once you reach the marker." She nodded, heading that way. He went back to the office with McGee, looking at the note once he was safely inside on the elevator. He handed it to his boss when he got in. "I told her the safer path, boss. She thinks someone's following her."
Gibbs looked at the note then at him. "Can't be too careful at her age," he agreed. "Thanks, DiNozzo. How did she look?"
"She looked good, boss. Jogging comfortably. She said Tro and Rory were very picky about her training suddenly."
"As they should be. She's four months from being sixteen and then they'll let her out hunting," he agreed quietly. "It's time for her to step up and us to help her." That got a nod but he could see DiNozzo's unhappy look in his eyes. He stared him down. "Maybe you should start showing her the better places in the city? I doubt she'll always hunt alone."
"I can do that."
"Buffy used to hunt in the clubs," McGee offered quietly. "Boss, email?" He pointed at his machine. "Mine's locked."
"That's fine." He checked his and found the plans in his personal email. From Rosenburg. So they were monitoring their boy. It made him a bit happier. Within weeks this would be done with. Hopefully without any real lost of life.
Xander finished stabbing the person who had come for him, then walked over his body and out into his hallway. He checked then went back in to get dressed and headed out with a small bag. He had a backup spot and it'd be all right. He knew where the director was and how easy it was to get in through the back, unguarded ways. He slipped back onto the base, avoiding all but one sensor on purpose. That one would register the demon skin he put over it, thereby setting off certain security procedures. He walked into the director's office, seeing her sneer and her hug. He shrugged and waved her on.
"I think not."
"I think so." He said something and her gun melted, making her shriek. She rushed at him with a dagger she wore, and he knew she wore, habitually. Then again, he already had one of his own and her self-defense skills weren't that good. He got her down and handcuffed, then smirked. "By the way, I'm turning whistleblower." He pulled out his cellphone and made the important call. "Special Agent Gibbs, I have to report a crime against the military. No, I have a suspect in custody, I'm in the chain of command, and she's going down." He hung up and looked up at one of the guards. "Never, ever send someone to attack me, boys." They backed up and nodded at that. "Escort LJ here. No one leaves the base."
"Beta team's out."
"I know." He shrugged. "I had to stab one of them a few minutes ago." He shrugged again. "It's fine. Tro's good, Patty's good, the others will be fine with ice packs and that one with a few stitches. I'm sure they're already on their way back here." Tony strolled in. "I'm turning whistleblower. She's been torturing people with this machine that takes their memories and makes them weaker soldiers."
"Okay. Do we have proof?" Xander pointed at the computer, earning a smirk. "Thank you, Mr. Harris."
"Welcome, Agent DiNozzo." She shrieked again so he hit her, hard, making her lip and mouth bleed. "Shut up, bitch." He stood up and looked down at her. "You ran this place like Buffy runs things. Hell, ants run things better than you." He looked at the guards standing around. "Confine everyone to quarters."
"Done that, sir. What happened?"
"Two of the people she used the machine on went spastic on base. One grabbed a gun." They turned pale. "One tried to kill his spouse. Fortunately they had people step in."
"We heard and we notified JAG there was a reason. That's where Gibbs is. He's telling the JAG personally what was going on." McGee walked in. "All yours, Probie."
Xander came over and typed in something, then a second password, looking at it with a grin then at him. "She had me set up the database." That got a laugh from Tony. "Ooopies." He walked over his former boss and looked at the guards still standing there. "Yes, I'm that Harris."
"But...." They gaped.
He shrugged. "With how they tortured things and people the last time did you think we wouldn't take them down like we did in Sunnydale?"
"Where are the others?" the head guard asked.
"What others? I brought you guys down myself," he snorted. "By the way, the hunting teams? I'll leave that up to Gibbs as to whether or not they continue." That got a sigh of relief. "The scope of their investigation will be the torture against humans allegations. So no one has to deal with demons at the higher levels." That got some smiles. "Go back to the office. Let LJ in." They nodded, going to do that. He found the director's secretary at her desk, typing something. "Any coffee made?" She glared at him. "You never tortured, they can only call you as a witness," he said quietly. She nodded behind her and he got his usual mug and something to drink, handing Gibbs a mug when he walked in, getting a smirk. "Sorry, Special Agent Gibbs, but she was torturing humans with that Hiroshima machine. At least two were harmed. After talking with the specialist you found, he thinks he can undo the process and the damage without needing the machine."
"Good. Thank you, Mr. Harris."
"Welcome, Gibbs." They went back into the office, watching McGee cackle. "The time I fell on my ass?" Xander asked. McGee nodded. "Even I have that problem now and then."
"Wasn't your fault, you were tripped," Tony told him. "By a girl but still tripped."
"Even I get lust now and then too. Tro's the sort of woman I would normally date. Dangerous, pretty, mean." He shrugged and took another drink. "We getting enough?"
"More than," Tony assured him. "We'll need to debrief you."
"Sure. Here, there? Need the files I've kept in my office?" Tony nodded, so Xander handed him a key. "Filing cabinet." He went to get them and box them up. He looked at Gibbs. "I figured you didn't want to give people higher up ideas or make them deal with demons."
"No, I don't," he agreed. "But it'll be more than enough to make her go to jail for life." He looked back at her, she was praying or something. "Stop her if she's doing magic." Xander kicked her in the side, making her whimper but stop. "Effective."
"Breaking her concentration is the easiest way. I've walked up behind Willow to tickle her out of doing magic many times, Gibbs." He smirked at him over his cup then at McGee. "How's your sister?"
"Better. Out of traction. Still not great but getting there."
"Good. Come up and see her soon. I've got to go kick some asses up there." He rolled his eyes. "Some things are gonna change," he said firmly but sounding amused. Patty stomped in. "Good morning, princess."
"Fuck," she muttered. "He'll be fine, he's in the infirmary."
"I so pity that man," he sighed then he shrugged. "It's up to Gibbs if the hunting teams get to stay together." He stared at her. "Your choice if you go back to Cleveland if they do. If they're not, you're going."
"Excuse me? I'm....." He glared and she wilted. "Fine. I'll talk to him," she agreed, looking at Gibbs. "Sir?"
"Don't sir me, kid. I hate it. I'm not an officer," he said firmly, staring at her. She wilted again. "Good. Tro?" She stepped in. "I'm going to need plans to see what those on the hunting teams want to do."
"Chuck and I have been talking. Finn had a sweet deal with the UN, Gibbs. Patty?"
"If the hunting teams stay together it is her choice," Xander told her. Tro looked at him and he grinned. "My cousin died a long time ago."
"Crap," she muttered.
"And the first thing I'm going to do is kick certain people out of Cleveland when I get home."
"Thank you," McGee agreed, going back to work. "I'd like my sister to live."
"She can go home once she's fully trained to take out or on whatever she needs," Xander told him. He looked up. "That was the intention, McGee. To train the girls so they could handle it if something came for them. Then if they wanted to go back to a semi-normal life, like Abby is, they could. Speaking of, Abby needs more training." They all nodded at that. "But yeah, she can go home as soon as she's healed and fully trained. I have a testing out procedure."
"Thank you," he offered with a smile.
"It's still her decision," Xander warned.
"I know. She's a stubborn brat. Always has been." He got back to work. "Boss, I've downloaded all the files. We have enough here to charge her with personally torturing some people with that machine and other tortures, and for ordering it." That got a nod. "I sent it all back to Abby. The download will be finished in two minutes. Should I look for other things?"
"They'd be in there, correct?" He nodded. "Then we'll do it from the office. DiNozzo, pick up the disgusting bitch. The rest of you will have to give statements. We're going to keep you all confined to here until we know if you were involved or not." That got a nod from Tro and the guards. "With FBI help." He walked off, calling Fornell to tell him it was time. He had briefed him the other night, when Xander had set the final step into action. "Harris," he snapped. Xander followed, waving at a few people. He popped into his office to get a few things out of his desk then one other thing he had taped under it, heading out once they were in his pockets. "We'll do your statement first."
"Sure, Gibbs. I need a ride." Tony looked at him. "I know how he drives. How many of the girls do you think I had to give driving lessons to?" That got a snicker. "Dawn's next if she ever gets out of the hospital." The elevator doors closed on them and they descended to the parking garage to take the director away.
Of course, rumors started that this was their way of taking over but those would be solved later.
Buffy walked into the kitchen, finding some *man* in the fridge. "Who the hell are you?" she demanded. He straightened up and glared at her, making her flinch. "Xander?"
"No shit," he said dryly, bringing his breakfast over to the table so he could put it together. "You're up early, no slaying last night?"
"We've got training in an hour," she defended. He gave her another look. "What?"
"You weren't supposed to send girls out alone," he said quietly. "Or at the age of fifteen." She snorted. "They're children, Buffy. We all agreed on that. No single hunting and no kids out except on training patrols with at least one experienced slayer." She stomped off. "That's fine." He finished his breakfast and ducked Willow when she came running to hug him. "Morning." He headed into the office, hitting a long distance number. "It's Harris. Put Giles on," he sighed. He took a bite of breakfast. "Now," he ordered. Buffy and Willow stormed in. Spike was behind them and so was Robin Woods and Faith. He put it on speaker. "Giles, it's me. I'm done. They're closed down. NCIS and JAG have them."
"NCIS is the Navy and Marine cops, Giles. JAG does the army and air force," he said patiently. "They got them for the mind wiping and torture they did on the ones I didn't pass through to a hunting team. The guy over the investigation got hints of it and his is the team that did it when we destroyed them in Sunnydale. So he's got it."
"Excellent," Giles voice said happily through the speaker. "Very well done, Xander. Anything else good come of it?"
"The hunting teams decided they wanted to do what Finn and his teams did, work for the UN. I told Patty she could stay with them since she's so close to sixteen and she had a mentor and guardian with her team leader. Also, while I was there, a hellhound who likes me dropped off Linia's bracelet. She was out alone?"
"She was. Also, when was the last time we got an update on Dawnie?"
"She and Patty went hunting alone before she came down, Giles. Did we not agree no children go on patrols? No going alone and no kids, right?"
"I agree," he said firmly.
"Good. Because the two girls I saw, one didn't pass me in a good way. Patty barely met standards I set. She was already emotionally damaged and Tro, her team lead, got the story out of her and told me. I want Buffy, Faith, and Willow back there with you. We've got kids here and I don't need that."
"I agree," Giles said, making Buffy shriek. "Ah. You do have me on speaker. Buffy, girls, I want you back here. We could use you in London and we need Willow to help set up the Council's things again. Xander, do you wish to keep Robin?"
"Up to him. He can go with Faith and be her Watcher. I'll keep Dawn since she's in stable condition."
"Of course. Let me know how we can help the young thing."
"Visiting her, Giles. She said Buffy hadn't been in for at least a week." Buffy glared at him, arms crossed over his chest. "I'm calling your mother back for a seance, Buffy." She stormed off. "Cleveland is mine?"
"Cleveland is yours. Call me later to discuss any salary you might need. We've finally gotten that end all cleared up and your back checks will be cut. I'll have a plane waiting for them since we had one," Giles noted. "Willow, Faith, Robin if you want, pack and come here. We need you to set up the Council." The other two trudged out and Xander shrugged at Robin's look. He got a nod and went to pack too. "Xander, are you sure?" Giles asked quietly once he heard the doors closed.
"Yeah, I am, Giles. Patty said Ambrosia's been going out and she's only twelve," he said quietly, hanging up on him. He finished his breakfast and watched the others leave, then he hit the alarm button. "Report to training," he yelled. "Now!" The older ones who knew that voice got the younger ones that way. He went to answer the door since it was being pounded on. "Sorry, had to wake everyone up," he said when he saw Gibbs. "More problems?"
"They liked the idea and we've got inconvenient knowledge," Tony admitted.
"Sure. Abby, you'll be over the younger girls. McGee, we could use you to redo the computers and things. Tony, you'll handle the admin with me. Giles and I will do training and tactics. I'm the head Watcher here. Everyone else is gone back to London."
"You knew?" Gibbs asked.
"I figured since they were still hunting around for more information after the last one," he said with a small shrug. "I'll give you guys the tour in a few." That got a nod. He led them up to the training room, walking in. "I'm back!" he announced. "Things are now gonna change to work the way they're supposed to!" The girls all stared at him. "For those of you who didn't see me when I gathered you, I'm Xander. I'm senior Watcher in Cleveland now. So yes, some things are going to change. There are no more single hunts allowed." That got a mild cheer. "There are no more hunts except training patrols allowed for girls under sixteen and they will be with an experienced hunter. No exceptions unless the world is going to fucking end!" Gibbs glared at him. "Sorry, LJ, sometimes it has to be said." He looked at the girls. "For those of you under the age of thirteen, the pretty goth woman is your new big sister. Her name is Abby, she's a senior slayer by age, but not experience. She's still got some training to do as well. That way you have someone to go to about schoolwork, boys, things like that. Or any girl questions because I'm not answering questions about PMS." That got a few laughs. "You older ones can go to her about boy and girl problems as well. Remember, I don't care if you do date as long as you're of reasonable age, I clear it first, and we don't have problems out of you. Understood?"
One of the younger kids pouted. "I don't need a new mother."
Xander looked at her. "You're about to hit puberty, Toni. I'm not answering questions about sex, breasts, or anything like that. Abby does that. She's like your big sister. Use her to bounce ideas off of, go to her for homework help if you want. She and McGee are *really* seriously smart, like smarter than Willow smart." She smiled a bit at that. "This is so you guys have a stable influence in your lives, kiddo. All of you younger kids." She nodded at that, settling back into her spot on the mats. He looked around again. "Also, those of you who are old enough? You and Abby need to have a birth control talk. I don't want to see baby slayers unless it wasn't your fault or you're marrying him or are already married. For those of you who like girls, and you're over the age of consent, and you suddenly feel like doing it IVF and stuff, let me know first. I have to know these things to make plans. So yes, you're all getting physicals." He looked around. "Against the wall is the new staff. The others got recalled to set up the main Council with Giles." That got a few quiet cheers and he grinned. "It was what I did right after breakfast. Against the wall is Gibbs, he's a former team leader at NCIS and a highly decorated Marine. He and I are over training. He'll do the basics and I'll do the higher level and demonic stuff. We'll figure that out later," he told Gibbs.
"Works for me. I don't know demons and don't want to."
"Did Spike leave?" Abby asked. The girls all shook their heads. "Did he get rechipped or something?" They all smirked and nodded. "How?"
"Willow when she drew him out of the capturing amulet Xander used," one of the older girls noted. "She cackled pleasingly while she tortured him."
"Good," Xander agreed. "Spike's a good way to know if you're ready to go out of here as fully trained." That got some nods. "He's killed other girls. Buffy and he tied. Faith and he tied a lot as well. Use him as the information source and helper that he can be. But do remember he is still a vampire. He has still tortured and killed many people. Including torturing our group by eating cereal laced blood in front of us." He looked at the wall again. "Next to him is Tony DiNozzo. He's Gibbs' former second in command. He's also a former cop. He'll be doing some of the admin stuff for me but he's also a ladies man. So if you ladies need to check to see if your men are players, ask him, he'd know. He can help with training and other things. Maybe even some homework and things. Also PE if he wants since that's what his degree's in and he played two college sports. Next to him is Tabby's big brother, Tim McGee. He's another super hacker and he and Abby work on that." That got some smiles and waves from Tabby's friends. "Abby is the female on the end. She is very goth. She is one of you. She's also a forensics genius. So they'll fit themselves in however soon enough. Give them some time and patience. There's thirty-one of you if you had all shown up."
"Thirty," one of the older girls called.
"Who else died?"
"No one, but Tabs is out. You do remember she hates being called Tabby?"
"Then she'll beat up on me when she's out of her casts," he said with a smirk for her. "Including all the girls still in bed or otherwise occupied, it should be thirty-one. Unless one went home after being found to be fully trained?" They all looked stunned. "That's the whole plan, guys. The world doesn't really need thirty slayers. But you guys can't be untrained. Things are drawn to you. Therefore we'll train you and those who want to slip back into a normal life, like Abby did, can. Those who want to stay with the council can. The same as Patty's off with a hunting team working for the UN." He looked around. "Theresa still in bed?" Everyone nodded. "Figures." He looked at Gibbs. "Nothing gets her up. I've put her in a cold shower and she won't get up." He looked at them again. "So, are we back to thirty-one?" Everyone counted then nodded. "Good." He looked at his watch. "Those who're heading to school, you've got a half hour. Grab shit and go." They headed off. Some of them stayed. "Kicked out?" A few nodded. "We home schooling the rest?" They smirked and nodded. "Talk to Abby and McGee today. We'll figure that out."
"Robin was doing it," one girl offered. "Even though he's mean."
"He's heading back to London," Xander told her. "We'll find one." That got smiles and nods so they headed off to finish getting changed for the day and get a more leisurely breakfast once the others had piled out to catch their usual rides to school. Xander looked at them. "Now you know why I was so upset."
"I do," Gibbs agreed. "We can figure that out."
"I can help with the education stuff too," Tony offered.
"Cool. Woods set it up so it's mostly on the computer. Somehow. I have no clue. Let me know what staff we need. The girls have a rotation for chores. McGee, go find your sister, she's probably in bed in the infirmary." He nodded, going to do that. He looked at Abby. "You know the layout, find yourselves rooms in the guest wing. I sleep on the bottom floor over here to prevent sneaking out." That got a smile and she drug the other two with her. "Watch out for the younger kids, we've got two pre-school aged and two older young kids," he called as an after-thought. He went to check on them, finding the two-year-old pouting at him. "What? I came back." He gave her a hug and she giggled, squeezing his neck. "Good girl, Martty. Let's get you cleaned up and then dressed, okay?" She beamed at him and shook her head. "Tough." He took her into the bathroom to get her changed, finding one of the older girls doing that. "You okay?"
"I'm fine but I'm skipping. Besides you could use the help with the two toddlers." She looked up at him. "Are *you* okay? I heard the call to Giles."
"Linia was out alone when she died. That broke both rules we agreed on," he said quietly. "I'm pissed."
"Good." She took the baby and put her into the bath. "Splash and get wet." She did that and she stood up, looking at him. "Why did we take in the kids?"
"Because their parents were going to kill them."
"Oh, yeah." She sighed and nodded. "I forgot." She sighed. "We need a nanny and we need an educator."
"Okay." He grinned. "You know, some day the rest of you are going to go to college and we'll pick from you guys."
"Point," she agreed happily. "I wouldn't mind doing education as a major." She winked and got back down to help the young one clean up. "I've got her but Ivanna is a hellion recently."
He walked that way, tapping before he walked into her room. "Get up, Ivanna," he called loudly. She threw something at him so he caught it and handed it back, looking at her. "I'm back. You can get up now. She's gone. So's Robin." She beamed and got up, racing into the bathroom. "Let me know if you need any help, dear."
"Welcome. We have new people here and they're very nice. You'll like them more than you did Robin." She giggled at that and came out naked. "Bathe." She went back in there once she had her dolly to bathe with. He grinned and picked out something for her to put on. He stayed in there even when Gibbs walked in. "The younger ones we had to take," he said quietly. "They were in mortal peril, Gibbs. Hey, Ivanna, when you're done, come out in a towel. One of the new guys is here." She peeked out and waved then went back to her bath with her dolly. He grinned at that. "She's a sweet kid but I heard her scream almost a mile away. Her mother was flogging her for spilling milk. Milk was scarce but that's not right."
"It's not," he agreed. "Just the four little ones?"
"Unless another's found. I found most of the girls here. Faith found most of the rest. Giles found a few as well but he'll leave it in my hands." That got a nod. "We'll do fine. I know we need an education person. Robin was a principal."
"He's dating Faith. His mother was one of them." He grinned when Ivanna came out, sitting down on the bed to do her hair, what she had of it. "Hey, baby. I'm back. All the time. So you'll see me every day, okay?" She hugged him and cuddled in. "I love you too, Ivanna." He gave her a cuddle. "She was the first and not even Woods could complain, like he did about the other one. Martty was an odd case. Her parents were homeless and she's one so we took her in so they wouldn't have to worry about her being attacked or killed," he said quietly. "The two older ones were both peasants and in war zones. Faith couldn't leave them."
"It's fine. Does any one person have control over them?"
"I usually handle Ivanna. She's not always comfortable around women." He looked down at her. "Put on the clothes. I made sure you'd be pretty today." He set her down and she got dressed. "Martty we're all taking turns. Mostly the senior girls use her as a good sign for using birth control." That got a smirk. "She's two, Gibbs. Martty's four. The others are eight and twelve. We got them when they were six and ten. So we've had some experience with this. Plus one of the girls is probably pregnant by what I saw earlier. So I'll be talking with her about her choices."
The other girl poked her head in. "We know, she knows, she thinks she loves him, they're planning on marrying right after the baby's born since Buffy hated him. Would you meet with him?"
Xander nodded. "Yes, I will be. Does he know?" She nodded. "Then have her bring him over later this week. Do his parents know?"
"Doubtful. He's been here most nights hiding from them."
"Wonderful. Then I'll see him tonight and we'll talk to both them together." That got a nod. "If you girls find someone reasonable I'm not going to force you to not see them. I am going to make sure you're careful, you're doing it smartly, you're on birth control, and they know they're going to be doing the same thing."
"Good." She smiled. "I'll tell Cook that we'll have a family dinner soon."
"We finally have one?"
"Yeah, Giles hired some really old lady to do lunch and dinner. Breakfast is still the cereal dispensers and milk plus whatever bread or bagels someone buys. She's good at that, Xander. Relax."
"Thanks. I'll get used to that stuff today."
"I've been doing it."
"Even better. You want to keep doing it?" She shrugged. "We'll go in four or six month stints. Keep me informed, let me know what's going on, and get with me about the budget."
"Yes, sir." She headed out with Ivanna since she was dressed. "Breakfast." Ivanna ran ahead of her. "Slow down. You don't want to be in casts like Tabitha, do you?" She followed with Martty on her hip.
Xander looked at Gibbs. "I set this up because Buffy runs things like that director did." That got a small smirk. "Let's go. We can even have a real breakfast with the remaining kids. Was I assuming too much?" he asked as they headed back down.
"No, the girls need some help," he admitted quietly. "Tony will pout about the paperwork."
"What paperwork? He'll have control of the checkbook." He shrugged. "We're run like an extremely large family, Gibbs. There was once a mother and she was very prolific with the daughters." That got a small laugh. "She was." They ran into one girl on the stairs hopping. "I'm going to see about a lift or elevators," he noted from behind her. She squeaked and he caught her. "Your brother's around here somewhere."
"Just what I need, the nagging boy." She smiled. "Help?" He nodded, picking her up in a fireman's carry to bring her down the rest of the stairs. "Gotta say, Xander, nice butt you've kept in shape." She squealed when he spanked her for it. "Ow! I'm already in enough pain!" she complained.
He smirked at her. "Next time, don't comment." He turned her around and pointed. "Abby."
"Abby!" she squealed, hopping over to hug her. "Why are you back?"
"We brought down the new Initiative with Xander and they decided we had inconvenient knowledge. So we're all here. Gibbs, Tony, me, your big brother, who's doing breakfast. He's a bit fussy."
"He always was," she sighed, hopping that way. "Timmy, stop it now! They're good enough to get their own cereal!" she snapped as she hopped in. He grinned and finished pouring milk for one of the younger ones, coming over to hug her. "Thank you, Mousy."
"Don't call me that," he moaned.
"Better than probie," Tony joked, grinning at her. "So I take it you're the younger McGeek?"
"I am." She beamed. "But not nearly as smart."
"Shut up," he complained, pulling back to look at her. "You are so! Don't you dare say you're not as smart as me! Just because you're a science person instead doesn't mean you're not as smart as I am....." He trailed off when Xander covered his mouth with a hand.
"I taught her to hit people with the crutches when they nag, McGee. Lay off. Enjoy the time you have because the roof could use fixed and could fall in on us at any moment." He let him go and headed to get his second breakfast, smirking at the girls who had been kicked out. "We did what to get expelled?"
"Stakes," a few admitted.
"Boyfriend," one sighed. "PDA and I was going to a Catholic school. They called me a whore and kicked me out." She ate another bite. "Second boyfriend ever and I was groping."
He shook his head at that. "Okay. The rest?"
"Fights," they said bitterly.
"It happens, girls. We'll figure it out. After all, Buffy trashed one school's gym during a fight and then we blew up our high school during graduation." That got some smiles and McGee gave him a horrified look. "We did. It was necessary." He sat down next to the pregnant one, putting a hand on her stomach. "Four?"
"Five months, Xander," she said, bright red and looking down. He tipped her face up. "I'm going to marry him."
"Sure. I'm still going to meet this boy. If he's good and you're being reasonable then I don't have an issue. If you're not being realistic, I'm going to burst it on you. If he's not good to you I'm going to kick his ass and make him beg the Goddess for mercy."
She smiled and hugged him. "Thank you."
"Welcome." He patted her on the back and she let go. "How many boyfriends do we have living with us?"
"Officially, three. Hers, Tabby's, and Meredith's," she gossiped. "Unofficially? About seven now and then, depending on who can sneak theirs in."
"Can you please make Meredith's boyfriend quit being such a screamer?" one of the other girls called, earning a lot of laughs. "Please? He's louder than I am when I sneak mine in."
Xander looked at her. "I don't like sneaking boyfriends. I meet all boyfriends so I can threaten them." That got nods. "Plan for a large family dinner so I can meet them all with a crossbow."
"Yes, sir," they all agreed, some blushing and others just going back to eating.
Ivanna looked at Tony, who was up the table. Then she slid out of her booster seat and walked up to him, tugging on his arm. She smiled and lifted her arms up. "I'm scared of little kids," he said, patting her on the head with a hesitant smile. She sighed and crawled into his lap, hugging him. "Okay, sure," he agreed, hugging her back. She beamed at him and poked him on the nose before getting down and going back to her breakfast, the girl with her laughing. "I've never been comfortable around kids," he defended.
"She knows. She's making you more comfortable around kids."
"She did me and I'm scared to death of them," Xander agreed from his seat. "Gibbs?"
"I'll handle it. Abby?"
"I love Ivanna and Martty," she said, grinning at the two girls. "They're cute." They both beamed at her.
"I handle most of the childcare," the one young woman offered. "Ivanna usually went to Xander but I handled it while he was off destroying and making the world safer again. Her momma tortured her. She's not always comfy around women."
"It happens," she agreed, smiling at her. "I can help."
"Good. You can have Martty." She handed over the younger one. "She won't eat for me today." Abby held up a piece of toast with honey, getting a scowl. "That's Abby, honey. Eat for her."
"She likes cinnamon," Xander called over.
Gibbs sat down and took the baby, staring at her. She smiled at him and rubbed his cheek, cooing. He took Abby's toast and let her have it to eat. She smashed it into her mouth and nibbled contentedly. "At this age, they're wanting independence."
"That's why we let her do some of her own bath now," the older girl said, smiling at him. "Welcome to the Cleveland Slayer's Academy, Gibbs. Tabs, come meet your big brother's boss and coworkers!" she called.
"Let me get free first," she complained. She finally got free of her big brother and came hopping over to sit on Ivanna's other side. "Hey, Ivvy." She beamed at her and she winked, handing over some sugar. "Put some on the cereal." She poured a whole lot on there but did eat it finally. She looked at Martty, who was beaming and waving the crusts. "Eat that too. If you do, we'll let you chase Xander around the office again." The crust got eaten and she got to chase Xander around the dining hall instead, he played along very well. "So, the big goofball worked with you guys? Did he come in wearing chainmail yet?" Tony choked at that and she smirked at him then back at Gibbs, who shook his head. "I'm shocked."
"I didn't allow Abby to so he couldn't," he said with a smirk for her.
"Pity. The time we hid all his clothes but a loincloth and chainmail, which meant he had to go to school that way or flunk the year since it was finals, was kinda fun."
Tony grinned. "I like you already," he promised with a smirk at McGee. "I'm so going to pick on you for that."
"Blame her. She did it to me." He sat across from Abby, looking down at Ivanna. "Hi." She shyly waved and hid her face in his sister's side. "She's my baby sister. I'm Tim. Can you say Tim?"
"Tim?" She perked up and looked at him. He smiled and she crawled over people to sit on him, then pointed at her cereal with a scowl. "Pwease," she said when it wasn't handed over. It got handed down with her glass of milk so she ate from his lap. She clapped when Xander had to jog past them to stay ahead of the baby. She looked at him. "I'm four."
"I can tell. You're a very big girl for being four." She beamed and dug in again.
"You need to have little hacker babies," she complained, rolling her eyes. "And I need out of this cast," she complained, reaching for it.
Tony handed her his spoon. "Use the handle. Only go side to side." She did that and moaned in pleasure. "I've had a few. I played pro ball in college." She smiled at that. "We can compare casts and concussions. Xander said I'm over some of the admin stuff."
She patted him on the hand. "Take tylenol now, Tony. Buffy hasn't balanced the checkbook in three months, since he left." He moaned and slumped. "But it's the only checkbook. We're run like a big family. As Xander joked, somewhere there's a momma who was very prolific with the daughters." He snickered at that. She caught Martty on their next pass. "Martty, this is Tony." She hugged him and babbled happily at him, making him hug her back. "Aww. You'll do fine but if you hit on any of us, we have the right too smack you down and walk over you, as is proper for Amazons."
He laughed and nodded. "That's fine with me. You're too young for me anyway," he teased back.
She snorted. "Honey, I'm more than old enough from what I heard, I'm just smarter than the average bimbo."
"Being a McGeek yourself, I'm not surprised."
She punched him on the arm backhanded. "Behave."
"I do try."
"Try harder." She smirked at him. "Also, the honey who comes in with the paychecks? She's taken by *two* women who're fairly scary. Don't hit on her."
"Okay, I won't."
"Good. I did that once," she sighed, shaking her head. Abby giggled at that. "What? Being bi is good to me."
"It is," Xander agreed, hugging her. "But I still get to meet and threaten any and all boyfriends or girlfriends, you shall be on birth control, and you can ask Abby any questions you might need." He let her go and tugged lightly on some of Martty's hair getting a scowl and swatted at. He grinned. "We're going to go practice soon. Are you playing in there with us?" She beamed and nodded. "Cool. Ivanna, are you going to play in the practice room with us?" She beamed and nodded. "Good girl! I'll see you guys up there in a bit. For now, pick a room, get settled in, and I'll go over stuff with Tony later. Provided Buffy didn't get frustrated with the bank and burn things again?" The older girls with them shook their heads. "Are we sure?"
"Yeah, Giles told her to send it to him mostly," Tabitha said, smirking at him. "Apparently her rant that checkbooks were evil was heard all the way over there."
"That's because I called Giles. Also, mass trip to go see Dawnie tonight!" he announced. "No one's visited her recently." They all cheered at that. "She kept you from visiting them?" The girls all nodded. "You guys write emails to Giles, okay?" They all beamed and smirked, nodding at that. "Good. Practice is a half hour from now. Make sure your rooms are a bit cleaner and you're in appropriate clothes, including bras, when you come down," he said, glaring at one girl still without one. Then at one in her pajamas, which gaped. "Understood?" They all sighed. "Then the afternoons are educational stuff." He headed off, going back to open his office again. He found a lot of stuff on his desk and groaned, looking it over. Most of it was stuff Buffy and Willow hadn't done, like pay the electric bill. He called Giles. "It's me. Did you pay any of the bills? Please. I'll need it, Giles," he sighed. "No, I found it on my desk. Apparently they piled it in here after I left. I'm surprised we have power at the moment. Thanks." He hung up and started a round of calls to give them a few days, until the bank transfer of funds came through. Though he did fax one really high bill to Giles so he could ask Buffy why they had three thousand dollars in back electric bills.
Tony came in and looked over his shoulder. "Are you guys growing drugs?"
"If we are, I'm going to kill a former principal, two senior slayers, and a witch," he sighed, shaking his head. "Giles is sending funds to the account and we're setting it up so we can pay it in a few days." That got a nod and he took them over. "Usually it's not this bad," he promised. "It's the once-monthly payments and he handles the paychecks." He faxed over a list of staff, including asking if he could hire someone for the education stuff. Then he stood up. "Do whatever you can of that. Use my name, I'm on all the bills." He headed up to deal with the practice to see how badly Riley had screwed them up. He found Gibbs watching two older girls spar and ducked one wild kick, shoving her over. "You're off balance." He waved the other one on, bowing to her before attacking. She frowned and attacked back, defending herself. After ten minutes he let her go and bowed again. "Better."
"Thank you. Riley was working with the young teens."
"Joy." He grimaced and went to work with them while Gibbs got the older girls. Because he knew something else had gotten screwed up.
Gibbs watched, nodding at some of them. He was making practice team rotations today. Some of the girls met his standards and would move onto Spike. Since he and Spike had a talk about that on the way up when the vampire had tried to corner him. He explained how the system had worked so far. It was well grounded but someone had tried to do some messing. So they needed to get the girls back on track. "Good," he told one, nodding at her. She bowed and went to the corner to cool down. "Report to Spike." She smiled at that compliment and nodded, heading up the hall. He tapped a few more. "Within the month, you'll be joining her." That got some other smiles. "For now, work with the others. They need it." That got nods and he went back to watching. Some of the girls needed a lot of practice.
Xander came over to point at one. "She's only been here six months, Gibbs." He went back to the younger ones, knowing he understood. Sometimes you had to cut them some slack. One of the girls gave him a miserable look. "Having vampire cramps or regular ones?"
"Go take a midol and come back." She nodded, going to do that and go to the bathroom. The others who needed one did the same and then came back. "Another advantage of going on some forms of birth control, girls. It can stop those." That got some interested looks. "We'll do a mass outing to the health department," he agreed.
"The infirmary has a doctor on call and a nurse," Tabitha said from her place with the kids. Since she was injured she got them.
"I'm not talking to the scungy bastard," one girl complained. "He leers."
"I'll check on that," Xander agreed. "Plus, the health department can give you your first six months all together and do the assorted tests they'll want." That got groans but nods. "We'll schedule it, ladies. Who's keeping track of that?" One of the girls raised her hand. "Good. Project into next month and we'll arrange it around everyone's cycles since you can't go when you're having one." That got a nod and they went back to work.
"You keep track of that?" Gibbs asked.
"It's bad to go out hunting vampires when you're bleeding," one older girl said, looking at him. "Plus it's a practical thing when you've got thirty young women in the same place. You've never seen PMS until you've seen twenty-three of us on the same cycle." He shuddered at that. "Exactly, Gibbs. So yes, we do. It's for everyone else's sanity. It even influences dinner. We get a lot more meat those days. Oh, Xander, we have one who's so irregular it's not funny."
"She can talk to the nurses at the health department about going on something that can stop them, the same as you can," he assured her. "Or she can talk to Abby."
"Works for us," she agreed, going back to work.
Gibbs shook his head. He and McGee when he came in shared a look. "Kate would've loved this place," he said dryly.
"Yeah but she would've taken over and made us all femme," one girl said with a smirk. "Willow tried now and then too." She stared at him. "Yes, I did do my research. Where is Officer David?"
"Not a clue but if I have my way Ducky's coming up."
"He can play doc in the infirmary," Xander agreed happily. "His mother could have tea and it'd be good for the girls to learn how to take care of things." He stared around and they all looked sheepish. "Schedule of chores?"
"We'll remake it tonight," one of the older ones agreed.
"Good, room inspection this weekend," Gibbs announced. "That way no one's drawing bugs. I don't care about mild messes but nothing like the one room I saw." Everyone pointed at the room's occupant. "Is her name Halley?" They pointed at that girl, who gave him a horrified look. "Her room is too much. Got me here?" That got nods and they all made mental notes to pick up a little bit before this weekend.
Xander giggled, leaning against the wall. "It'll work, guys. It'll definitely work. We'll be fine now." That got smiles and they got back to work with each other.