When Gibbs awoke later that morning, he groaned as he realized how stiff his neck was. Grumbling about getting old, he glanced over at the bed, and all slumber immediately vanished from his body—the bed was empty. Alex was gone.

Swearing, Gibbs rushed downstairs, grabbing his cell phone. He was already dialing Tony's number when he saw a figure in the kitchen out of the corner of his eye. Creeping stealthy over to the doorframe, he hung up the phone when he recognized the person by the stove.

"Pretty sure the doctor's ordered were to stay in bed," Gibbs announced, causing the Alex to whip around, holding a spoon in front of him. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "Not sure that a spoon will defer anyone from attacking you," he said with a slight grin.

Alex stared stonily back at the mam. "Well, we'd see if the attacker was still smiling after he had his eyes gorged out," the boy replied with a straight face. Catching Gibbs' horrified expression, the teenage spy rolled his eyes. "I was kidding, you know."

"Of course," Gibbs replied smoothly, grabbing a cup of coffee and moving to sit down at the table. Alex brought over his bowl of cereal and sat across from the man. The two of them sat in silence as Alex munched on his breakfast and Gibbs drank his coffee. "How are you feeling?" Gibbs asked after the long silence.

"I'm fine," Alex responded, unconsciously rubbing his new insignia. Gibbs stared down the boy and Alex glared back, unflinching. "So are we heading out today or not?" he finally asked as he got up to put his dishes in the sink and washed them. Gibbs was paying close enough attention to the boy to notice Alex wince in pain once or twice.

"I don't think you should come today," Gibbs began, holding up a hand before Alex could interrupt him. "Your face is a mess of cuts and bruises, I can see where he knifed your collarbone, there are fingermarks littering your throat, and, even though it's not visible, there is a branding on your rib. You really sure it's a good idea to leave the house today."

"Well either you take me to your office, or I sneak over there myself," Alex stated. "I just thought I'd save you the trouble of wondering where I was and tracking me down and all that shit."

"How considerate of you," Gibbs tensely replied. "And what is so important that it requires you to ignore the extent of your injuries?"

"I've had worse," Alex shot back as he dried the bowl and put it on the drying rack. "Besides, Slade already knows you live here. Who's to say he won't come back? And can you really afford to have someone stay here and watch me? Face it—I'd be safer out there with you guys," Alex finished with a smirk, knowing he had Gibbs backed into a corner.

"We leave in twenty minutes," Gibbs responded in an annoyed tone after a minute. "You not waiting by the door, I'm leaving without you." Alex nodded at the Marine, flashed a cheeky grin and went upstairs to collect his stuff.

Gibbs was left sitting alone at his table, wondering how the hell he was going to put up with the British teenager and trying to dispel the slight rush of affection he held for the boy. Ducky's words came to his mind when he realized that injury never kept him down either—perhaps he did have more in common with the boy than he wanted to admit. Draining his coffee, he hurried to get ready for the office.

Gibbs descended down the stairs, only to find Alex leaning against the doorframe, waiting for him. He had on black mesh shorts and a blue LA Dodgers t-shirt (which covered his collarbone, but did nothing for the finger-marks splattering his throat), with a black drawstring backpack slung over his shoulders, and an LA baseball cap covering his messy blonde hair. Alex looked like a normal teenager, minus the bruising all over his face. He raised his eyebrow and check the time on his phone.

"You're late," he announced, grinning.

"And you look unprofessional," Gibbs growled as the two made their way to Gibb's car.

"Yeah well," Alex at least had the decency to look a little sheepish, "I didn't realized I'd be, ya know, assigned to this case. And it's a lot easier to wear sport shorts than cargo or kakis or anything like that. Not to mention I can fit more in the backpack I used to fly here. I can't be bothered with the large luggage and all that; a normal backpack was much easier. And I brought this drawstring one in the airport once I got to the East Coast so that I can carry around a couple things I might want bring to your office and back."

"How much did you pack?" Gibbs inquired, remembering the green and black school backpack that had been tossed behind McGee's desk yesterday after the arrival of the teenager had been sorted out.

Alex shrugged. "Eh, I guess enough for a couple days. I mean I have money if I need it and I can always run to a Laundromat if I need too."

"I do own a washing machine," Gibbs told the teen, "and you're welcome to use it." Alex gave the man a slight smile and nodded in thanks and affirmation.

"That doesn't mean I'm going to go out and buy 'acceptable' work clothes," Alex informed Gibbs. "If what usually happens to me when I'm assigned occurs again, I refuse to be wearing kakis, dress shoes, and a button-down with a tie."

"What usually happens to you on missions, kid?"

"Classified," came the swift replied and Gibbs just barely refrained from rolling his eyes. "But let's just say I find running in sneakers much easier." The rest of the ride Alex spent of his phone, texting. Gibbs restrained himself from making a comment about teenagers and their attachment to their electric devices.

Gibbs followed Alex out of the elevator, noting that Dick and Tony were the only ones not there yet. Ziva bid them both good morning as she flipped through a report, while McGee waved at them in welcome, as he was on the phone. Gibbs sat down at his desk, while Alex took Tony's seat and booted up the computer. Ziva grinned at the teen's antics but said nothing.

Looking up, Gibbs saw Alex staring intently at the screen, the observed at the boy rooted around Tony's desk before finally a pen, and then watch as the kid pulled his own notebook from his bag. Gibbs wondered what the boy could be copying, and was about to ask when laughter from the elevator sounded and Officer Grayson and Special Agent DiNozzo sauntered in.

"Did she really say that?" Tony asked, a wide smile on his face.

"Yeah, Barbara was not a happy camper," Dick responded. "I mean it wasn't her fault that Damian felt the black-tie event was a waste of his time. But it was on her watch that he escaped."

"I would have let too—hate formal events," Tony said with a shudder.

Dick nodded in agreement, "Not my favorite part of being a Wayne. Avoiding that is another perk of living on my own in Bludhaven."

"Yeah, glad I left the life of fancy dinner parties behind," Tony told the other man, before stopping short at the sight of Alex at his desk. "Excuse me, that's my seat," he told Alex, ignoring Ziva hiding the grin the danced across her face.

"You were late," Alex informed him, not looking up from the notepad he was reading over.

"That's my desk," Tony stressed. Dick had pulled a chair up next to Ziva's desk and was watching the exchanged with a smirk on his face, but a heaviness in his eyes as he looked at Alex.

"And I'm simply borrowing it for the minute," Alex shot, still not looking at the agent whose seat he occupied. "Maybe tomorrow you and Dick will be on time and you won't have to worry about looking stupid as you argue and lose to a teenager." Tony opened his mouth to retort back, closed it, and then glanced around quickly. Alex cleared his history, exited the window, stood up and offered Tony his seat back in an exaggerated motion. Trying to maintain the appearance of dignity, Tony smiled and sat down in his chair, pointedly ignoring Ziva and Dick's snickering.

Alex shot Dick a smile as walked over to Gibb's desk. "Can I go down and visit Abby?" he asked. "I want to properly introduce myself and thank her for her help." Gibbs nodded, not looking up, and Alex threw his pad and pen into his backpack and scampered off down the stairs.

"Boss, was that a good idea?" Tony checked, recalling the horror of the night before.

"Would you have liked to try to stop him DiNozzo?" Gibbs responded. Tony murmured something along the lines of "good point" and went back to his work. Gibbs ignored the slight tugging in his gut that thought DiNozz was right—Alex should have stayed up in the bullpen with them.


I apologize for the extremely long wait for this story as well as my others. I hope to be adding chapters to them within the next week. Thanks for all sticking with me and please drop a review. Thanks! :)