It took him the rest of the three weeks to finish his carvings. The guys from Denver called once a week and Xander smiled upon hearing their voices. It reminded him that he was still not alone, and even though Ryan was a good friend, Team Seven had reached him in a way that Ryan couldn’t.
Over the three weeks, Xander began to realize that he truly did see the seven as family. Chris was the over bearing Papa, Buck was the fun Dad that took you out to play baseball, JD was the kid brother, Nathan was the cool Uncle that tried to make you eat better, Josiah was the protective Father in Law, while Vin and Ezra were his lifelines. With that in mind, Xander had went out to get more carving wood and made each of them a small gift to show how much he cared and wanted to thank them.
Xander completely forgot that he and the others would be celebrating his birthday, but packed his suit since Ezra said they’d eat fancy one night. Humming to the tunes on the radio, Xander carefully wrapped each carving and separated the gifts from the ones he made for himself. He also had a bag of tea lights to make sure that he lit one for each friend that he lost over the years before he landed in the laps of Team Seven.
As he sat beside Ryan on the plane, Xander wondered if anything had changed in Las Vegas, and if Nick and Warrick were still grumpy at his teasing. Smiling softly, he let himself fall asleep, knowing that Ryan would wake him when they landed.
Xander hated the noise at the baggage claim. While he was glad that he and Ryan were being picked up by Greg and David, Xander still hated the fact that the kids were screaming. Spotting their bags, Xander lead Ryan to the information booth and smirked upon seeing Greg and David enter.
“Xander, you made it!” Hugging the excited blond with one hand Xander let him go for a minute to shake David’s hand.
“Hey guys, this is Ryan, the friend I was telling you about.”
“Cool, come on, we’ll take you to the hotel and get you settled. Oh, by the way, Warrick and Nick are going to be around, and they are just a little bit wary of what you might do.”
“Are they still on the last prank I did?” Xander snickered at Greg’s nod.
“That and they are still trying to understand your whole ‘the love of your life is almost always with you’ comment.” David’s dry voice made Xander gape.
“They still don’t know that they should be fucking like bunnies?!” Getting a solemn nod, Xander sighed.
“Well, I’ll just have to help. Oh, and Ryan, don’t forget to get H to pounce you this weekend.”
“Yes Xander,” Was the reply, complete with rolled eyes.
Xander stuck out his tongue and let David drive them to the Orleans Hotel, where the convention was taking place. Hopefully Xander was on the same floor as Chris and them, since Ryan was getting the keys for the two rooms that they would be using. Xander mentioned that he was going to be resting with the boys from Denver, and ended up flashing a leering grin at Ryan.
They were lucky that there was no line for checking in, and Xander quickly found out that he was at least on the same floor as the team from Denver. Laughing at Ryan’s eye rolling, they left a message for Horatio, Calleigh and Eric telling them which rooms they were in. It was always fun to get to the hotel first and get the best rooms for themselves.
Making their way to the elevators, they had to check the cards to see which floor they were on. Luckily they were on the sixth floor, so the ride up wasn’t that long. Xander remembered that Vin was claustrophobic, and was glad that his friend wasn’t on the top floor of the hotel. Upon arriving on their floor, Xander was pulled into a bear hug, and he squawked at being man handled.
“Josiah, it’s good to see you, but I need air!”
“I’m glad that you made it Brother Xander. How was the trip down?”
“It was good, except for the screaming and wailing little brats.” He shuddered, “I hate crying kids.”
“That’s fine, now what rooms are you in?” Chris’ voice made Xander grin, and he poked Ryan.
“Let’s see, we’re in room 628 and 629. What about you guys?”
“Damn, we’re in 625 to 627. All right together!” Buck and JD cheered, making both Xander and Ryan laugh.
The guys were laughing and then turned to Xander with confused expressions when they saw him enter Ezra and Vin’s room.
“Why are ya sleeping in their room pard?” It was expected that one would ask, and Xander smirked when he had guessed right that it was Buck.
“Why not sleep here? I enjoy the fact that I can sleep with people that understand, and who I know won’t poke me in the middle of the night if my nightmares get too bad.”
“They came back?” Was Vin’s soft reply, getting a small nod from Xander.
“They that bad?” Was JD’s question.
“Some days are worst that others, that and the past few days weren’t too good. Ezra and Vin helped me through my last batch, so I’m hoping it’ll help with this one too.” Nathan had noticed the dark circles under his eyes and had come back out with a small box.
“Drink some of this before bed, it’s a lavender and mint tea that should cure your insomnia and help flush out the toxins that are making the nightmares more regular.”
“Thanks Nathan, I’ll put this in with my things. Oh, and I have a few items to show you guys while Ryan is off picking on H and the others.” Xander gave him a tired smirk.
“Yeah, yeah, I know, and find out where Tony and Abby are staying.” Ryan replied.
“I think the whole convention is on this floor. There are many cities that are going to be here, and you did say that the feds would be here for recruiting as well.” Chris pointed out.
Xander nodded and was shuffled into Ezra and Vin’s room, beckoning the rest of the seven and waving at Ryan since he could hear the phone ringing in his room. Placing his suitcase on the bed with the other two bags, Xander pulled out his suit and hung it up in the bathroom before coming out and handing the seven their gifts. Seven faces looked at him in shocked awe, and Xander shuffled in place, embarrassed.
“Umm, you guys told me that you liked old western ideals, so I found a type of person and carved each of you as one. Chris, you’re a gunslinger, since you have a no nonsense attitude; Buck, you were an ex-Texas ranger turned protection of a town, because of your instincts; Josiah, I put you as a man of the faith, because you know the value of words and could help people with the right ones; Nathan, I made you a healer, since you are a medic but back then anyone with skin other than white couldn’t be an actual licensed doctor; Vin, you were a tracker, because you knew the land and prefer it to civilization at times; JD, you were a sheriff because of your innate goodness, and belief that not everything is as it seems; and Ezra, you were a gentleman gambler, you could con a king out of his gold, and he’d never know.” JD glomped Xander after his explanation and was practically squished by the younger man.
“JD, air, needs it.”
“They are wonderous works of art!” Ezra gave Xander a one armed hug.
“You think so? I know that I haven’t done much carving, but-”
“Wait, you made them?” Nathan interrupted Xander, and got a wary nod in return.
“Hot damn kid, these are perfect!” Buck exclaimed from his spot on the bed.
Xander began to blush and shift uncomfortably under the awed stares, and Chris decided to take control.
“Thank you for the gifts Xander, you mentioned that you had more to show us?”
Before Xander could pull out the other carvings, there was a knock on the door.
“Xander, open up; we need to explore Las Vegas!” Abby’s voice came through the door, and the eight men chuckled at the hyper tech.
Chris let the black mini tornado into the room and let her friend in as well. Xander was trying to breathe as Abby latched onto him and the other man laughed.
“Abs, let Xander breathe will you, I’m sure that he doesn’t want to pass out from oxygen deprivation.”
“Oh, sorry Xander.” She blushed and once he caught his breath, Xander tugged on a pigtail.
“No worries Abby, and thanks for getting her off Tony. Tony, Abs, this is Team Seven out of Denver, Chris Larabee, Buck Willington, Nathan Jackson, JD Dunne, Josiah Sanchez, Vin Tanner and Ezra Standish. Guys, this is Tony DiNozzo and Abby Sciuto. Both work with Gibbs at NCIS. By the way, were there any problems after you got back from vacation?” Xander saw the flinch that Tony tried to hide and sighed.
“Do you want me to deal with Gibbs, Tony? The man is going to get you killed if he doesn’t stop harping.” His voice was filled with concern and Tony simply gave a sad smile.
“He came with us and so did Kate.”
“Ah, I’m guessing she said something and Gibbs did nothing as usual?” Abby nodded sadly.
“I’m ignoring her at the moment, and Ducky is too. He heard what she had said, and when Gibbs did nothing, well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ducky that mad before.” The quiet voice caused Xander to hug Abby once more.
“Well, we should go and mingle at the rooms. I’m guessing we’ll be in the ballroom and the rest of the conferences will be at one of the old schools in the area?” JD nodded at Xander’s inquiry. “Cool then let’s go and mingle to see what options Tony and Abby have for new places to work.”
Both tried to protest as Xander led them out of the room, but his reminder that a boss doesn’t just reprimand you made them quiet down.
“Also, it’s not like you have to join the labs that you’re scoping out. It’s the principle of the matter, since you’re both burning out from the pressure he’s putting on you. Tony, he wants you to be the perfect Marine and Abby, he wants you to give him everything right away. I know you love working with him, but his methods leave much to be desired. While he can be a bastard to everyone else, he should be decent to his team and not single you out in public and reward in private. You don’t do that in the military, so why should he get away with it now that he’s out of it.” They nodded at his words, and let Vin be the last one in due to his claustrophobia.
Upon arriving in the lobby once more, the group made their way to the conference rooms and the ballrooms at the other end of the floor. Ascending the stairs, the group went to sign in, and Xander perked up upon seeing Greg and David mingling about as well. They were talking to another blond man with glasses and Xander made his way over.
“Hey Greg, hey David,” He smiled at the other man, “Hi, I’m Xander Harris.”
“Danny Messer, I haven’t seen you here before.”
“I’m interning right now at Miami before I’m off to the ATF in Denver.”
“You know already?”
“Yeah, AD Travis wanted me to be the tech for one of his teams. I’ll be working with Team Seven.”
“Damn, a lot of people have tried for that place, but they couldn’t hack it.”
“Yeah, Chris is a unique person, but I’ve seen worse.”
“My ex enjoyed flaying men alive with her tongue, and not in the fun way.”
“Ouch, that’s gotta suck.”
“It did, but we became good friends after we split. She died two years later from complications in her brain.”
“Yeah, glares, not that scary after being used as a whipping boy for my ex.” Danny chuckled at Xander’s bland statement, and gets a wry grin in return.
Shaking hands with Danny, and they promise to talk more later on during the convention, Xander went back to the guys and was helping Tony and Abby stay away from Kate and Gibbs. If they came close, well, Xander did learn a thing or two from Cordelia and Anyanka.
Ducky joined them for a moment to see if Tony or Abby needed anything, but was told that they were fine, and introduced Team Seven and Xander to the elder ME. Nathan had practically jumped the man, since Ducky was well known in the medical field.
When Xander had asked what would happen if Tony and Abby left NCIS, Ducky looked at Xander for a moment before replying.
“I admit that Jethro does not play well with others, but if Abby and Anthony leave, he will hunt them down to bring them back.” Xander gave the ME a wicked grin.
“He could try, for I know that Tony and Abby are being sought after by other government agencies, and that while Gibbs can teach them some things, the main thing that they are learning is that you should never expect praise, only criticism. At least, that’s what the lesson is in Tony’s case.” Xander led Ducky away for a moment.
“I told Tony to relax and enjoy his vacation and I got a relieved look Ducky. I normally don’t care about how people run their teams, but Tony is going to get hurt. Gibbs is killing him with his attitude and this Katelyn Todd isn’t helping with her snipping. I will get Tony to leave NCIS, for the simple reason that I don’t want a good friend of mine to die because he has nothing left to live for.” The shock on Ducky’s face made Xander nod, and the ME swallowed.
“Do you have any Idea where he could go?”
“Texas, Huston, Texas to be exact; I know Levon Lundy needs another hand in their PD, and it will give Tony the chance to heal in a way that Gibbs is refusing. Besides, this way Levon will finally get the experience he needs to make two full teams. Yeah, his men got some ideas on what to do, but Tony’s ways of thinking won’t be dismissed immediately simply because it comes from a movie. Movies are somewhat based on real life, and if Gibbs and Todd can’t see that, then I hope that they learn what they threw away when I get Tony to see that he could improve so much better away from DC and NCIS. Though, he will miss you and Abby.”
“Thank you for telling me the severity of the situation. Though, Abigail and I might have to leave as well. Jethro has gotten much worse since Jeffery White, and I do believe that Tony would enjoy the green pastures of Texas.”
Walking back to the group, Xander simply smiled at Tony’s inquiring look, and Vin slipped away to go find Levon and Joe. He only hoped that both were here, as Tony really needed to get away. Maybe Ducky and Abby could go to Miami. The pair would then still be close to Tony if he needed them, and it would be a quick and easy commute.
40,480/50,000 ---> WEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!
PS Clicky Clicky! there be the dragons!