Author: Anime Ronin <diabloslayer21[at]>

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Joss and ME owns Buffy, Belliruss et al own Navy NCIS

Challenge: TTH Challenge 336 - Xander decided to join the Marines after Graduation (you choose if he becomes a normal Marine or if he ends up in Spec Ops). Sometime during his enlistment he comes in contact with the NCIS team as they investigate a crime.

Summary: Enlisting out of high school, Xander thought his military career would be nice, quiet and he'd serve his time and then just get out. Yeah, right - like that's going to happen.

AN: Xander has had no contact with the Scoobies outside of letters since he left - Buffy is alive, Sunnydale is toast, but they managed to defeat the First without calling all the Slayers. Don't expect to see anything of them in this fic, only mentioning and in Flashbacks.

Chapter 1

Forensics Lab - 0844 3 February 2004

Abby walked into her lab and knew immediately something was amiss - first off, she had not left the lights on the previous night, her computers had been shut off and her chair, which NOBODY touched, was currently not behind her desk, but rather in front of a remote terminal … and it was occupied.

"Abby?" Agent Timothy McGee was a sweetie, at first look that much was certain, but sometimes he managed to get on her nerves, "Is something wrong?"

"Yeah, there is, Tim. Alright, who are you and why are you in MY chair?"

The figure didn't turn around as he, as it was definitely male, clacked away on the keys and absently put in a CD into the computer as it ejected another one - even seated, he was tall, built like most military types that came through the place, though they were generally dead, dressed in civilian clothing that had the hint of military with the way the creases and pleats were, and he also was bobbing his head absently as a tiny radio was blasting out a song that her mind finally placed, 'I Disappear' by Metallica. He merely raised a hand, as if to say 'in a minute' and that made her growl slightly.

"I think the lady asked you a question, sir." Even as McGee spoke, she could hear the tone in his voice and knew that this wasn't going to be pretty even as the figure stiffened and stood. She was right - he was tall, a little over six feet, and when he turned she repressed a squeal of delight as she saw the face of her old friend Alex, but it then registered that he was scowling.

"Excuse me? What did you call me?" Even as he strode forwards, Abby could see the remarkable resemblances between Alex and Gibbs - both HATED to be called 'sir' and for good reason.

"I called you 'sir'."

Alex got within arm's reach and then looked at his shoulders theatrically, "I'm sorry, but do you see butter bars, stars, oak leaves or eagles on these shoulders, kid? DON'T call me 'sir', boy, 'cause I WORK for a living."

She couldn't help it - Abby snapped to attention and didn't salute, "Staff Sergeant Harris, I understand you, Staff Sergeant Harris!"

He looked over at her, obviously trying to not smile, and nodded, "Out-STAND-ing, Abby. Now, assume the hugging position." She leapt forwards and wrapped her arms around his neck, squeezing as he did the same, except around her waist, and for the barest instant, all was right in her world, but then he let go and looked her up and down, "Still doing the Goth thing, Abby?"

She smirked, "Hey, when you've got it, flaunt it."

He snorted, "True - who's he?"

"Staff Sergeant Alexander Harris, meet my boyfriend Agent Timothy McGee of NCIS. Tim, meet someone who is at least as dangerous as Gibbs." This got an arched eyebrow out of the both of them, but she only acknowledged Alex's, "Hey, you can build any kind of bomb you want - that makes you dangerous."


Tim took that point to get into the conversation, "So, WHY are you here?"

Alex gave him a look, "I'm uploading some new software into the system on bombs we've run across in the Middle East over the past year - I have the work orders, authorization and the consent to do so, so it's all kosher." She watched him walk back to the terminal and load another disk into the waiting computer, "So, Abs, how're things around here?"

She shrugged, "Not too bad - we did a case on an EOD guy like you not too long ago."

Tim spoke up this time, "EOD?"

She looked at him, "Explosive Ordinance Devices - bombs and bomb-making stuff. They learn to build and disarm things like that."

"Done." She looked over and Alex began to pack up his things, "Nice to see you again, Abs, but I gotta go - I'm getting discharged later on today."

She smiled, "Even with all of the people they're keeping in with the war and all?"

He shrugged, "My CO wants me gone - apparently he's tired of me doing his job and my job better than he can do his alone."

"Commanding Officers can be like that, Mr. Harris." Abby jumped at Gibbs' voice - she hated it when he snuck into the room like that, "You give any thought to my offer?"

"That I have, Gunny, and I accept." She looked at Gibbs, then at Alex, and saw them both smiling slightly - this could not be good.

Later - Autopsy

Kate watched as Ducky began to put up x-rays of another corpse and mumbled to himself, "Ducky, are you okay?"

He turned and looked at her owlishly for a moment before snapping out of it, "What? Oh, I'm fine, Caitlin, but rumor has it that Gibbs hired someone new today, an old acquaintance of ours. I do hope it's true - Alexander has an appreciation for my stories that some here are sorely lacking." He gave her a look and she shrugged.

"Who is he?"

"Alexander Harris of California - Marine, EOD specialist and quite a nice young fellow. He was here on a case of ours helping identify a device used to detonate a Commander's car while he, his wife and child were in it - I fear Alexander took the case to heart due to the child and made it an obsession to close it."

"When was this?"

Ducky looked thoughtfully up at the ceiling, "About two years ago, maybe a little more - not long after the attack on New York. Tony was fairly new, as was Abby, and Alexander was at the top of his graduating class."

She quirked an eyebrow, "So, he's a brainiac type?"

Ducky chuckled at that, "No, more of an intuitive thinker than a book-smart individual, Kate - he never told us, but I could see the signs of a harsh childhood and know that he trusts his instinct more than he trusts the cold hard facts of a case. Take this x-ray for example - here, here and here," he showed her, "are breaks in the bone, caused by blunt-force trauma, but he takes this in context and sees what might be there and what we also miss, like these hairline fractures that I see now. Our poor sailor on the slab over there was summarily bludgeoned to death by what appears to be a bowling pin, with the bruising and the shape of these breaks."

"So who can we pin it on, Duck?" Kate winced at the joke that Tony, who had sat surprisingly silently in the room with them, made.

Ducky snorted, "That was a terrible pun, Anthony - and I cannot tell you."

The doors to Autopsy opened up and in walked Gibbs, but following him was a dark-haired young man in slacks, a short-sleeved button-up shirt, and he had a bag in his left hand. Kate felt her mouth go dry - he was GORGEOUS! Okay, so he was easily five years younger than her, but still!

"Tony, Duck, you remember Harris, right?"

Tony laughed slightly, "Hey, man, good to see ya." He and the man, Harris, shook hands, matching smirk for smirk as they broke away, "So, you're signing on in this loony bin?"

"Of course I am, DiNozzo - someone has to bring up the standard of your humor." Kate stifled a chuckle while both Gibbs and Ducky openly laughed and Tony looked chagrinned.

"I'll have you know that I am the funniest man in all of NCIS, kid."

Kate couldn't resist the opening, "Funniest looking, maybe, funniest dressed, definitely." Tony gave her a wounded look as she walked forwards, "Kate Todd, welcome to the madhouse."

"Xander Harris, and I've been here before." He looked past her and smiled, the voice he had been using changing to a broad cockney accent, "Doctor Mallard - bloody good to see ya again, old chap."

"Good to see you too, Alexander - your mimicry has gotten much better since our last encounter." She watched them shake hands for a second before Ducky turned back to his x-rays, "So, what do you think?"

'Xander's' eyes narrowed as he looked at the pictures and he frowned, "Conclusive with preliminary findings, but look at the vertebrae about mid-picture - someone else got in a good shot with something a lot harder and smaller."

Ducky peered closer, "Yes - I'll examine a bit closer, but I fear with the amount of decay, we may be searching for a lost cause."

"Come on, Ducky," Tony said in his easy way, throwing an arm around first Xander's and then her shoulders, pulling them closer to him, "we specialize in lost causes."

Later, yet again, Bull Pen

"So, Gibbs, what do you think of this guy, Harris?" He looked up and over at Kate, who was finishing up a stack of paperwork, "I mean, Marine solidarity aside, does he have what it takes?"

"Of course he does, Kate," Tony said from his desk, where he too was working on his paperwork. "Kid's a natural - I mean, take the Boss, shave twenty or so years off him and you get Harris."

"I was never that skinny, DiNozzo." Tony was right, though - he and Xander were so much alike that it was scary.

Kate looked over at him, "So, what brought him in on that first crime?"

Leaning back in his seat, he began to remember.


"How did we get saddled with a snot-nosed punk out of training, sir?" The speaker was none other than Jethro Gibbs, former Gunnery Sergeant of the Marines, and he was speaking to his boss on the phone, the NCIS director, "How can we trust his findings? He doesn't have any experience."

(He has enough experience that he not only flew through training, Gibbs, but he also graduated at the top of his class, turned down BUD/S training and OCS, and if I believe his note from this morning, rigged a small charge to the bottom of your chair, which you happen to be sitting in right now.) Gibbs froze even as the Director went on, (His teachers say the kid is a natural when it comes to blowing shit up, Jethro, ten different kinds of scary, and I tend to believe them.)

"Sir, I'm sitting on a BOMB."

(I know you are - spin around and meet the 'snot-nosed punk'.) The Director hung up and Gibbs spun around to see a Marine in Class B uniform, wearing Corporal stripes and a serious expression while standing at attention.

"Mind disarming this bomb, kid?"

"It was never armed, Agent Gibbs - it was something my CO told me to do to not only make a point, but to get him even with you." He was young, barely over twenty, if that, but not full of the attitude that he'd thought the punk would be, "Snot-nosed punk reporting as ordered, Gunny."

End Flashback

"A moment of arrogance on my part, Kate." Tony and Kate looked at him as he stood and put his gun from his drawer into his holster, "Trust me, the kid is as good as he thinks he is and better than most people know."

Chapter 2

Next Day - 0600 - local motel

Xander finished the last of his morning exercises with a grunt as he got off of the floor and went to the shower to clean up - he was officially a free man of the civilian type again, honorably discharged from the Marines the day before and going to work with Gunny Gibbs at NCIS; it had been a hard road to get where he was, but now that he was there, he thought better of the entire trip … even if it had cost him most of his friends in the process. Buffy was dead - killed by her own hand trying to save Dawn, and the world, by jumping through a portal meant to break down dimensional barriers; Joyce was dead by way of an aneurysm; Cordy was dead, though nobody had the fucking balls to tell him how, and Willow was a recovering Black Magic addict after her lover, Tara, was killed and she sought justice. Dawn was still a recovering kleptomaniac, Giles was still British, Anya was dead and Faith was now the only Slayer around - she'd come to see him now and again when she could, and they were cool, especially after an apology, and they remained good friends. Now, though, Sunnydale was now a crater in the middle of California, his parents were dead and he was going to be away from them even more.

All of this circled in his mind as he washed, shaved and got dressed by 0700, but all also got put to the wayside - he had a breakfast date with Abby, his favorite … Goth; he had met her about five minutes after scaring the hell out of Gibbs and had forced himself to not make any assumptions of her from the way she looked, and that had helped their friendship quickly form and cement itself. Now, though, she was with that twerp McGee - there was something about the guy that Xander didn't like and, though he and Abby had never gone out together on an official date, he knew something wasn't kosher there.

He made his way down to a café that the pair of them had frequented on his last visit and there she was, larger than life and sticking out like a sore thumb in her Goth regalia, "Abby, how're you?"

She sniffed in a mock-haughty air, "As well as I can be while … mingling among the commoners." She held the haughty look for a second and then dissolved into giggles before hugging him for a while, "Good to see you, Alex."

"Good to be seen, Abs - where's your lost puppy dog?"

She smacked him on the pectoral, absently shaking her hand after the fact, "Don't talk about Tim like that, Alex - he's a good guy."

He only shrugged, "Abs, you're my friend - nobody will EVER be good enough for you … unless it's a she and I get to watch."

Out of Willow, that would have gotten a plaintive or shocked call of his name and another slap to the arm - with Abby, though, it got a saucy smirk and a finger being traced over his shirt, "Are you sure you wouldn't like to join in, Alex?"

He lost focus for a second as his mind, despite being a high trained weapon of the military, supplied that mental picture and then snapped back into focus with a shake of his head, "You're right, I might, but only if she looked like you, Abby."

She smiled a little more and sat down, "Sweet talking won't get you inside my chastity belt."

"No, but my lockpicks will." They laughed at the old joke between them as the waitress came up, took their orders and left quickly, "So, how are things with yourself, no work involved."

She shrugged, "Life's okay - I have a rave to go to in a few nights … and Tim won't go, so I'm kind of hoping you will? He's a little too straight-laced for what happens at them and you, well, you're from Sunnydale, the home of weird."

He arched an eyebrow, "You know, if that weren't the God's honest truth, I'd say that I resemble that remark."

Abby smiled as their coffee came to them via a waitress, "Then it's a good thing that it's the truth, then. So, you'll go with me?"

He drank his coffee and winced at the soft taste of it, "Any vampire wannabe's there?"

Abby shrugged, "Where there are Goth, there shall be the lame wannabe's." She sipped her coffee and then smiled wickedly, "Why don't you bring a stake with you? I'd love to see their faces when you pull it out."

He blinked, remembering their first encounter together with a vampire, and winced at the memory.


Abby had somehow managed to get him into a situation that he was not sure he could get himself out of, even with his training in the art of demolitions - he was dressed down in slacks, a button up shirt and half-boots and sticking out like a sore thumb at a party full of Goths. "What the fuck was I thinking?"

"What's that, Alex?" Abby had let her hair down, was dressed in leather and ready to kill as she slammed back another fruit juice drink.

"Nothing - just … looking." His hand went to the back of his pants, where he used to carry a stake, and missed that feeling of security even as his hand closed around his belt and pulled his slacks up, "Is it always like this around here?"

She looked around and shrugged, "Nah, sometimes it's loud." The decibel level was near deafening and he was sure that he'd have problems the next day.

"Good evening," came a throaty purr from his right, causing him to spin and see a very bad Dracula knockoff, something that not only infuriated him but it creeped him out with just how off the guy was. "Vould you like some … vine?"

"No, thank you, ya cheap knock off."

The man looked affronted, "You do not address the Dark Lord of wampires as a 'cheap knock off', voolish man."

Xander narrowed his eyes and felt his inner Cordy come out, "Lose the accent - you look like a dork and sound even worse. I mean, my GOD, how stereotypical and clichéd can you get?"

"He's right, you know?" Abby stepped up and grabbed the guy's fangs in a quick move, "Totally unrealistic."

"Hey! Give those back." The man made a grab for the fangs and Abby let them go, "So, mister and missus smarty pants - who would you peg for true vampires in here?"

Xander scanned the crowd around them and felt his Sunnydale weird-o-meter go off when his eyes fell on a woman who stuck out almost as much as he did, "Myself excluded, her. Pale face, clothes are about five years out of date, and she just … feels wrong." He reached over and grabbed a pencil off of the table while putting his drink down, and then walked over, motioning for Abby to stay put - when he got in range, he smiled and put on an old mask, "Hey, you new here?"

The woman/vampire looked somewhat surprised and smiled rather energetically, "Yeah - just got into town and a friend of mine, well, she ditched me. Karen."

"Alexander, but please, call me Xander." He accepted her hand and knew she was the real deal when he felt the lack of warmth and pulse, "Cold?"

Karen nodded quickly, "Practically room temperature."

He led her back to the table and to Abby and the Dracula loser, "Hi, guys, this is Karen and she's the one I was telling you about - perfect example of what a vampire should look like." Without letting a second go by, he pulled out the pencil and slammed it into her chest, much to the shock of all three individuals - Karen snarled and then turned to dust while 'Dracula' passed out and Abby gaped like a goldfish, "Any questions?"

Abby finally collected not only herself, but also her bag, motioning him to the front, "You bet your ass, Marine."

End Flashback

"It was your pencil, Abby, and if I recall correctly, we went out trolling for vampires two hours later because you wanted more proof." He drained the last of his coffee and looked around, "So, what's next?"

Abby sighed, "Work - you have orientation and I have a butt-load of evidence to check and process."

He reached out and patted her cheek, "Aw, does little Abby need help?"

She bit at his hand, which he jerked back, "No, but what I DO need is for you to tell me just how the hell you've been - you don't call, you don't write, and my clearance isn't high enough to find out just where you are half of the time."

"I was doing my best to stay out of the brig, Abs, and with my old CO, it was a full-time job. Besides, I e-mailed you a half-dozen times a month for the first two months, but never got a reply, so I stopped."

Abby winced openly, "Oh, yeah - I was in kind of a funk back then and didn't talk to anybody, so they closed my account. Stupid MSN."

He smiled and they stood to leave, "Yeah, but we have work to do - is Tony still telling lame jokes?"

"Nah - he's moved up to occasionally lame. He and Kate are always taking shots at each other. - they seriously need to get together."

"Office pool?"

"Oh yeah."

1155, Bull Pen

Tony looked up as Xander walked by, a Sig on his hip and a large file of things in his hands, "You legal to carry that?"

"The files, yeah - the gun, this and more." He deposited his files onto his desk, which sat across from Gibbs', before he put his gun in the drawer, "Is it always like this?"

Kate looked up from her own file, "Nah - sometimes we're busy." Even as she spoke, though, Tony winced - that was just asking for a phone to go off.

Gibbs' phone took that point to go off and Tony sighed as the quick conversation had Gibbs' face set in a grim line, "Murdered Marine out near Charlestown - we're on."

Tony looked at Xander, who shrugged and picked up his piece and the bag he'd been issued, a really ugly one too, "You ready for this, Xander?"

"I guess we'll find out, Tony."

Alright, here's the first two parts of this story - I kinda got started last night and posted them on TTH without even thinking about here. Sorry. What do you think? Chapter three's almost done, so it'll be up in a while.

Chapter 3

Gibbs looked at the scene and couldn't help but wince at the gruesome scene - the Marine had, at some point in time, had his throat torn out and had been left to bleed out. Kate had thrown up on sight, Tony was doing his best to keep his lunch in his stomach and, oddly enough, only Xander and Ducky were the only ones not effected - Ducky had his professionalism and experience to back him, but it made Gibbs wonder just what the kid had seen in his life to make him shrug off this level of carnage, "Duck?"

"Our dear unknown Marine has, obviously, had his throat torn out and been allowed to expire - from what I've seen here, he's been dead, oh, maybe six hours. Someone got him from behind - marks on his skin show they grabbed him by the left temple and shoulder to expose the neck, allowing it to be torn out - anything past that is complete speculation."

Xander, who was snapping pictures of the body by now, stopped and frowned, "Took his watch off forcefully, look at those marks." Gibbs saw the marks and looked down, "Takes a strong person to do this, even post mortem."

"No tracks in or out - whoever did this walked." Kate was photographing while Tony made sketches, the former speaking, "Back alley of a club, all sorts of people here, but nobody saw anything."

"Not with these people," he heard Xander say while snapping off a few more pictures. "Look at the name of this place, Kate - 'The Black Death'. Something tells me that either this place isn't on the standard tour or it was made deliberately hard to find - patrons only."

"So why is our Marine here? Luck?"

"Bad luck - he was brought here." Gibbs had to nod at this even as a gurney was brought in to take the body away, "I'd like to ask the club owner a few questions, Gunny - you mind?"

"Take Kate with you, Harris - something isn't right about this place."

Even as Kate and the kid left, he caught the muttered 'yeah, that's an understatement' and wondered just what Alex meant by that.

Inside - The Black Death

Kate watched as Xander looked over the place with a practiced and professional ease - he had an air about him now of competence and of being on edge, but of something else that Kate couldn't place even as the proprietor of the … establishment came out.

She was tall, dark and breathtakingly beautiful; dressed in a black velvet gown, her black hair framing her face and what appeared to be a spiked choker around her neck in place, Kate was sure that the woman was a man-eater, but Xander didn't appear fazed in the least, "May I help you?"

Kate took point on it even as the women stared at Xander, the women's bright green eyes boring into Xander's own brown ones, "Agents Kate Todd and Alexander Harris, NCIS - the man who was murdered in the alley last night, did you see him in here?"

The woman looked over for the first time and Kate felt as if her soul had been laid open for the women to look at, "No, but then again, I cannot remember every face that comes to my humble establishment."

"With as much security as you have in the first four feet of this place, you don't need to." Xander looked at the doorway, "X-ray, IR, video-recording and sound pick-ups - not cheap but definitely worth the investment in a place that can be … particularly rowdy."

The women smiled, "I do have a obligation to protect my customers - Mistress Diana, but please, call me Diana."

Kate smiled thinly, "Charmed - anything outside as far as security goes?"

Mistress Diana shook her head, "No, that would be violating the privacy of our clientele - I offer a place for a sect of people within this city to come and in return all I ask is that if they intend to do something that is not within our rules, that they take it outside."

"And those rules would be?"

Mistress Diana looked at Xander, smiling, "You wish to join our establishment?"

"Mistress Diana, I just would like to know the ground rules so if we decide to come back after sun-down, we won't be stepping on any toes." Kate noticed that Xander's eyes were almost as intense as Mistress Diana's in that he appeared to be reading her own soul, but if Kate's womanly intuitions were right, the woman had nothing to read.

"Fine - in case you haven't figured it out, we are a Goth Fetish club, which includes acts of what the even the most liberal in this world would see as Paganistic or Satanic rituals being allowed to take place. I ask that people not bite anyone within these walls, nor do they force themselves on another who does not wish to be forced. While drugs are not strictly illegal, the sale of them and prostitution is and if one is found breaking either of those rules, they are barred for life. Outside of those rules and a few minor ones, it is strictly don't ask, don't tell - something that I am sure that you are familiar with, Agent Harris."

"And what about gang members who deal in PCP?" This question brought not only Kate up short, but made Mistress Diana pale even as Xander pushed on, "What is their … status … in all of this?"

Mistress Diana fumbled for a second before regaining her composure, "They are not welcomed here, but if they do manage to get in via invitation, then there is not a great deal that I can do to make them leave."

Kate looked at Xander, "Do you know what she's talking about?"

"Unfortunately, yes, and I think I have one last question - were there any of these people here last night about the time that the Marine was killed?"

Mistress Diana looked calm, but Kate could see just a twinge of panic in the woman's eyes, "I cannot say for sure, as I would need to review the security tapes. Tell me, though, Agent Harris, how you are acquainted with these unsavory people."

Xander jotted down a few notes in a tablet he'd brought with him, but Kate could see the rage in his face, "They and their ilk killed a friend of mine back in 96, and another back in 97 - the first one has been brought to justice but the second one got off on a technicality." He closed his notes and smiled, "Thank you for your time, Mistress Diana - we'll be in touch." With that, Xander turned on his heel and left Kate alone with the woman.

"Such an angry man is he, Agent Todd - be careful of him."

"Why's that? He has a few problems, but we all do."

The woman's gaze bore into her own again, "Agent, I assure you that Mister Harris has more than a few secrets that he has not shared with you - trust me, I am a good judge of character, and I can see that not only does he have some past pain with these … gang members, but he also wants to see them all dead. Now, good day, Agent Todd - I have some rest to catch up on." With that, the woman named Mistress Diana swept out of the main room and left Kate alone, which she soon rectified and joined Xander and the rest of her team outside.

Back room - The Black Death

Diana looked at the bank of monitors and played back the scene over and over again - Agent Alexander Harris had no less than four crosses on his person and even what appeared to be a knife made out of wood, from what her security system could tell. He knew the truth of what had killed the Marine, his question about the 'gang members on PCP' told her that much alone, but he intrigued her more than she cared to admit in that when she stared into his eyes, he was staring right back into hers and she knew that not only was he familiar with what had killed the Marine, he was also secure in the knowledge in how to kill them.

"The game is afoot, my dear Agent Harris. What DO you really know, though?" Reaching over, Diana picked up a goblet of pure silver and sipped the thick liquid contents inside - type AB negative was her favorite, but exceedingly rare.

On the road - to NCIS HQ

Tony looked back at the sleeping newbie and then over at his boss, "So, boss, what's his story? Kate's seriously weirded out over this whole 'gang member' thing."

"He'll tell you when he wants to tell you, Tony, but don't try and pry it out of him - he likes his secrets to stay that way until he wants them to come out."

"Alright, but isn't he a bit young to be an E-6? I mean, he's what, 24?"

"Almost, and you'd have to ask me about that directly, Tony." Tony jumped and looked back at the supposedly slumbering Harris, who's eyes were open now, "And to answer you, the brass didn't like some E-4 as an EOD specialist, so they bumped me up when promotions came up and my rocker came about a year ago from some politicking. Don't ask me why, but they bumped me up regardless of the fact that they knew I was only in for a single hitch."

"Then why let you become EOD? Isn't that a career thing?"

Harris shrugged, "How the hell should I know, Tony? It was either EOD or Sniper training and, well, I have a problem with bugs. Either way, I was selected, I did my job and time, and now I'm out and working for NCIS - I wonder who I pissed off in my past life to get here."

Tony was surprised to hear Gibbs chuckle at this even as Kate blearily opened her eyes, "Still, why not go home?" Tony instantly regretted asking as he remembered exactly where Xander was from - Sunnydale, the newest sinkhole in the planet, "Ah, sorry, forget I asked."

"Did you get that weird vibe off of that Lady Heather knockoff, Alex?" Kate stretched in place, a pleasing sight to Tony, and then sat back with a grunt, "Can she get anymore stereo-typed?"

"Yeah, she could, but that was really her, Kate - and to answer your question, yeah, I also got that vibe off of her, but a vibe means nothing in court. If she was in on it, we would need proof."

Tony looked out of the window and at the setting sun, "Any ideas on where to look?"

Kate shook her heard to clear it, her hair flat on one side as she vainly tried to comb it out with her fingers, "No, she seems to have too firm of a grip on her club and herself - she's not going to let us get anything. What do you think, Alex?"

"First, call me Xander - only Abby calls me Alex and Ducky calls me Alexander, and secondly you're right, she won't give us anything to work with either voluntarily or involuntarily. She's too smart to let anything slip by her - remember that security package I mentioned? I also saw a micro-mass-spectrometer that identifies any and everything on a person's body in under a minute, and those alone go for a quarter mil a pop - she probably knew what color underwear you're wearing right now, Kate, and the fabric used."

Tony smirked and looked back at Kate, who looked outraged, "Skimpy black lace, Kate?"

She shot him a dirty look, "That's none of your business, Tony, and even if it were, I wouldn't tell you in front of Gibbs or Xander."

"Please don't then, Kate," Gibbs said from his position behind the wheel. "Was there anything else, Harris? No micro-nukes we need to worry about?"

"Nah - I have those all in my sock drawer. Just blood, Absinth, some weed and blow - it's all legal under her rules as long as it isn't sold."

"Find something we can use against her, and good work on identifying that security package, Alex - lots of money means a paper trail. Find it."

Next Day, Bull Pen

"Diana De Luna paid for the mass spectrometer a year ago from Cyber-Tech Industries in cash and cashier's check, had it installed and has had no problems with it at all." Kate finished her report and Gibbs wasn't looking happy.

"She purchased a mini-Cray to run it off of and paid for that in payments over the next five months, which begs the question of just how much she really pulls down in that club. IRS has her as a modest profit kind of person, but nothing on this level." Tony flipped through his notes and Gibbs looked even less happy, "Bank records are all clean, though, and all is accounted for."

"Other security systems are all off of the shelf from a local security firm called Sunrise Security - they themselves are clean, their instillation and technicians are all top-drawer and aside from some minor modifications to internal security, they only work on the door system." The new guy, Xander, spoke up with a confident tone and Gibbs lost some of the unhappy look.

"Internal security?"

"Yeah, Gunny, they installed what appears to be a bank vault door somewhere in the lower portion of the business, possibly the basement, but as it's all underground and they make no notes of what was beyond it, your guess is as good as theirs. She paid for it all on credit cards and those were paid off within the week."

Gibbs looked over at him, "Agent McGee? Anything you want to add to this?"

"Her security on her computer is impressive - she had a locked T-1 line fed into her business, several backup power supplies and a mainframe that we'd be hard-pressed to match, sir, ah, sorry, boss. With time, I could hack her, but it would be a one-shot deal - I'd need to know what we're looking for."

Gibbs nodded even as a currier came towards them, "Yes?"

"Agent Harris, package." Tim watched as the newbie signed for the package and then opened it up carefully - he couldn't blame him, given his background, but there was something about the guy that Tim just didn't like.

"What is it, Xander?" Harris ignored Tony's question as he pulled on a pair of gloves to remove the internal contents, which was a single sheet of something.

"'Agent Harris, I hereby invite you to attend my club with a guest tonight - there will be a special toast held in your honor, so I ask that you contact me as soon as possible. M.D.'" Harris held up the piece of what appeared to be parchment written in a flowing script and in a red ink, "Boss, I'm getting this down to Abby - something doesn't smell right." Without waiting for an answer, he was up and out of the Bull Pen, moving quickly towards Forensics.

"What are the chances that the ink used is from our dead Marine?"

Kate snorted at Tony, "Of course it's from him - we're too unlucky for it not to be."

Gibbs looked at them, "If it is his blood used, we have cause to search the premises - be ready to jump on it. Get me more information - now."

Time was out of his seat already and going towards Forensics, where he did most of his work now that Harris had taken his unofficial desk; Abby had told him that she and Xander were 'cool' and 'friends', but he still couldn't shake the feeling of something being amiss. That feeling was confirmed as he walked into Forensics in the form of Abby and Xander both shutting up about something, as if they were keeping a secret, "So, Harris, are you going to that club?"

"Club? What club?" Obviously he hadn't told Abby about it yet.

"'The Black Death' is owned by a possible suspect, Mistress Diana."

Abby gawked a little, "The Black Death? That's so freaking cool! Invite only."

"And he can bring a guest." Xander shot him a glare that made him flinch - apparently glaring was something that was taught in the Marines.

"Can I go with you, Alex? Please?" Abby began to wheedle away with her big eyes and pouty lips as Harris turned to him and walked over.

"McGee, I'll take her along, but if she gets hurt there, start running because if I catch you I'll skin your sorry ass and have your hide binding my books by Christmas." Tim felt all of the blood rush out of his body and his heart skip several beats even as Abby squealed in appreciation and her computer beeped.

After looking at it, she frowned, "It's human blood, and I'll need the rest of the day to get a DNA sample, but the blood types match to your Marine." She looked at Alex and smiled, "You always take me to the nicest places." In the pit of his stomach, though, Tim felt as if he had made a dreadful mistake in suggesting that Abby go along - it was as if someone was howling in laughter at a stupid mistake he had made, and he hated that.

Harris' voice was grim as he spoke, "Abby, we could very well be visiting Hell on Earth."

Abby blinked, "Did they re-open that place? I thought the Fire Marshall shut that down a few months ago?"

Chapter 4

1800 Xander's new apartment

Kate looked at Abby, who was dressed in her normal regalia of fishnet stockings, boots, a long-sleeved, skin-tight shirt, a leather skirt and her choker, not to mention what looked like old iron handcuffs, and had topped it off with a bag and enough spikes to make a hedgehog feel jealous, "You ready, Abby?"

Abby took the offered microphone and put it on her belt, hiding it perfectly as another ornament before tapping it and getting a thumbs up from Tony, "As I'm going to be, Kate - my first undercover gig, way cool!"

"All we have to do is wait for Xander now." Tim McGee was in the grip of the green-eyed monster already, even Ducky noticed it when he came in with some things for Xander, "Are you SURE I can't come with you, Abby? I'd feel a lot better if I did."

"You come with us and you'll do nothing more than freak out, Tim - harsh but true, you are not cut out for the Goth scene. Xander's dealt with them before, lost a few friends to them, too."

Tim frowned, "So what if they became Goth?"

"The people who killed them thought they were real vampires and tried to turn them into more vampires, Tim - Xander is still, like, Gibbs-level pissed at the guy who shot Gerald about that and it's been over seven years." Kate blinked at that as the door opened from Xander's bathroom and out stepped the leather-clad god himself.

It started off with black biker boots, then leather pants that looked as if they had been painted on, followed by a black muscle t-shirt that exposed some hard arms that Kate could drool over al day (and at night too) a spiked leather belt that was hiding a back-draw holster, a pair of forearm bracers that had spiked studs on the outer edge, a silver cross could be seen in the outline of his shirt and Abby was applying some eyeliner around his eyes - it was official, Alexander Harris was on her radar and would not be leaving it any time soon.

"Wipe you drool, Kate," Tony's voice suddenly purred in her ear, causing her to jump, squeak and wipe all in one second, before she turned and glared at the man.

"I was NOT drooling, DiNozzo." The looked back and saw the box that Xander had brought out previously, a padlock on it and it had been reinforced out the yang, "What's in there, Xander?"

"Party favors." He opened the box and pulled out a shoulder harness, in which sat not only magazines for a Glock, but also a few … stakes? Next came the aforementioned Glock, a .40 caliber by the looks of it, and after checking the magazine it went into the back of his pants.

"Stakes? Isn't that clichéd?" Abby glared at Tim, who shut up as Xander pulled out a pair of knives and put one in the top of each boot, hiding it expertly - Mistress Diana's words came back to Kate unbidden, that Xander had a lot of secrets and was rather angry at times. This only went to prove it. Finally, out of the box, came several small packets that he put into the long leather duster that he'd laid out earlier, one that looked like it had been around the world a few times and had enough left in it for a few more trips.

"You DO realize that if they ask, you're going to need to explain those, right?" Tony walked up and reached into the box, pulling out a stake, "I mean, who would bring a stake to a … oh, I get it, a prop. So many Goths think they are vampires and you …" Tony broke off into snickers as Xander and Abby shared a look that spoke of the fact that Tony was right, yet he was wrong.

"I am still not sure as to why I am here, Alexander." Kate had to agree with Ducky - why was he there?

"We need you for words of encouragement and advice, old man, plus I know that you don't have cable and the world cricket tournament is on tonight." Kate blinked at this as Ducky smiled hugely and went for the remote to the television, to which Xander told him the channel, "I think your old team is still in it."

"You watch cricket?" Tim voiced her own question before she could, which irked her even as Tony joined Ducky on the small couch.

"Doesn't everybody? Granted, it's nice to watch someone go down swinging to a fastball, but American sports just don't do it for me anymore, so I traded up - cricket for baseball, rugby and soccer for football, and I also like a bit of Masterpiece Theater on occasion too."

"Are you even human? I mean, I can't even figure out those things and I'm a genius!" Kate glared at Tim, who was being glared at by Tony, Ducky and Abby, "Well, it's true!"

"Timothy, it does not take an advanced degree in computers to understand the British way of life, merely an open mind to what you have been shown as an American - take Tony for example, in that he's picking up the calls for a proper futball match and is also interested in cricket."

"Plus the bats they use are cool-looking." Tony smirked for a second and then shouted at the television, "Oh, come on! That was fair!"

"Indeed it was, Tony. Are you blind, referee?" Kate blinked at the thought that Ducky and TONY, of all people, were arguing the same call on a match that she had no clue was about - maybe NCIS was finally starting to crack her.

"WHY did Gibbs let you do this again, Abby? Now that I think about it, you're not even a field agent and this Diana woman's a murder suspect." Tim, Kate could see, was doing his best to keep Abby out of the way of danger, but from the look that was growing in Abby's eyes, he was fighting a losing battle.

"Because I'm the only one besides Xander who could pull this off, Timothy." Kate winced in unison with Xander, who stepped off from the impending fight, "He knows that I'm careful, he knows that I'm going to be with Xander and he knows that Xander will DIE before anyone hurts me - he's threatened him with death himself, for that matter."

"Which reminds me, Alexander, if Abby does get harmed from this escapade into the darkness, I shall find Mister Giles and have him regale you with some of the fascinating tales from merry old England."

"Double for me, only I'll make you eat Kate's cooking." She glared with a vengeance at Tony, a glare that could have punched a hole in the side of an aircraft carrier, but he merely smiled as Xander pulled his jacket around him a little more and put his phone and ID into his pockets.

"Let's go, Abby - they need to have a lover's spat." Kate spun to glare at Xander, but he had put on a pair of sunglasses that seemed to sparkle with an inner light, and smiled as he and Abby left the apartment.

1900 'The Black Death'

Abby flinched at the black glares that they were receiving from the patrons of this club - she knew when Xander had first approached her about coming along with her, which had been just before Tim had shown up, that this would not be her normal cup of cola; he had warned her of the tings she could see and hear, but more importantly, of the things she might be forced to do … like shove a stake into the heart of a charging vampire. In the two hours that she had forced him to take her on patrol for vamps two years before, she had not staked a vamp, though she did feel a twinge of regret when she saw him stake that one in the club, Karen, her name had been - he had shown no emotion in his eyes when he did the deed, something that told her that he was completely at east with destroying things like that, and even as she walked next to him, she wished she could grab the stake he had given her on the way to the club.

"Don't sweat it, Abby." Xander softly squeezed her hand as they made their way to the bar, drawing looks left, right and center from the crowd, who looked, for the most part, just like them, "They're just jealous that I have the best date in the place."

"And if I wished to be your date, Mister Harris?" Abby looked at the woman who purred the question and nearly wet herself - whoever she was wore a skin-tight, off the shoulder silk dress of the deepest blood red, her immaculate black hair done into an intricate braid and was worn over one shoulder, her skin like ivory and just as flawless, her lips as red as fresh blood and her eyes as green as emeralds. Abby was instantly jealous at the woman, but wasn't sure why as she looked her friend up and down without abash or pause, "Very nice, if a bit rough around the edges."

"Well, I was a bit rushed for time, Mistress Diana. This is my friend and guest this evening, Abby - I trust she is as safe in this place as I, correct?" She could hear the cool tone in his voice even as the woman smiled even more, showing off her perfectly white teeth, and knew that the pair of them were playing a game of some kind.

"Absolutely, Mister Harris."

"Please, call me Alexander."

Mistress Diana smiled at this again, "Very well, Alexander, and yes, you and Miss Abby are both very safe here tonight. Now, if you will follow me, I must ask that you leave your weaponry in our safe room - nobody needs weapons here."

Abby felt her mind go into a panic as they were led to a small room, which amounted to an old pantry, and she handed over her one stake while Xander handed over his stakes, gun, knives and even a small, yet sharpened, nail punch - they weren't armed and were walking into a place that was giving her a serious case of the willies, a feeling that she rarely got and when she did she always listened to what her gut told her.

They were led into a small ante chamber and then into what appeared to be a board room of some kind, with the large table, the leather chairs, dim lights and all, at which point Mistress Diana spoke again, "Abby, what is to be discussed in here is of a graphic nature - if you wish to leave, now would be the time."

"I'm not letting Alex out of my sights, lady - this place is SERIOUSLY creeping me out." There were several chuckles at her statement from the filled chairs and form the shadows, and even from Alex, who had on a mask of congeniality even if his eyes were like ice.

"Abby, trust me when I say that if they wanted us dead, we'd be laying in pools of our own blood right now … or being drained of our blood. Besides, it's me - have I ever walked us into a situation that I couldn't get us out of?"

"Our second date." Even as he opened his mouth to protest, the memories came flooding back t her - Gibbs and his wife had talked Alex into going bowling and he had somehow talked her into it, and then when they found out that it would be in a tournament play, neither of them could wiggle their way out of it.

"Alright, I'll give you that one, but we had fun that night, remember?"

She snorted, "My hair smelled like cigarette smoke for a week, Alex." Pierce her lips, tounge, ears, even her nipples, but having the miasma of smoke in your hair was more painful than all of them combined.

Xander's Apartment

"So, Kate, what do you think about cricket so far?"

Kate shot him a glare and Tony was suddenly wondering exactly what was going on with Xander and Abby at that point, "Stuff it, DiNozzo - we lost contact with them nearly five minutes after they walked into the place and we still haven't gotten it back. How can you be so calm about that?"

Tony shrugged even as Ducky came back into the room with a fresh bowl of chips, a beer and some dip, "There isn't a thing I can do about it, Kate, and the techies and backup on scene can't get them back, so there isn't a reason to worry in an undue manner."

She scowled at him, "You are spending WAY too much time around Ducky, Tony." She grabbed a chip and looked at the screen and shoot to her feet, "Oh come on!"

Tony looked at Ducky, who raised a beer at him, and he smiled - Kate was officially corrupted.

The Black Death 'Inner Sanctum'

Xander sat in his seat next to Abby, who was shaking in her fishnet stockings, and looked at the assembled cadre of, as he had heard them put once, 'sodding poofs' - each of them were dressed up in frilly, archaic high-borne wear that, quite frankly, looked ridiculous on the men and reminded far too much of Drusilla on the women, though Diana had at least come in the style of dress in this century. The Clan Toreador was a great many things - supposed artists, hedonists, high rollers, big spenders, and connoisseurs of high taste and fashion, but all of them had one thing on common with the rest of the Clans - they were all vampires. Oh, he knew they weren't the demonic breeds that inhabited Sunnydale, but some of them were even worse, "So, why have I been summoned here, Mistress Diana? Surely the Clan Toreador has something better to do than to waste my time."

Several of the people there blinked in shock, one of the ladies gasped and the eldest man there, who looked amazingly like Burt Wolf, actually laughed out loud while Diana merely smiled, "Ah, so you DO know who and what we are. Very well, Alexander - we have asked you here to ask you of your intentions in our City. If you know who we are, then you know of The Masquerade."

"Yes - you are not like the demon breeds in that you try to not be seen, that you hide in plain sight. My intentions here within the city are as follows - work for NCIS until I feel it is time for me to move on, live, laugh and love as a human with my friends and colleagues, and to exterminate as many of the demon-breeds that I can." There were several murmurs of surprise at this and even a nod of acceptance, so he posed his own question, "Now, I must ask if any of you or your Children had anything to do with the death of that Marine last night - please, no posturing or trying to play games, because if you did, I need to see if a) he is going to rise again and b) how we're going to explain this."

"Alex! What are you doing?!" He looked over at Abby, who had stopped shaking, "That is an on-going investigation."

"Your Marine was an unfortunate casualty in a slight skirmish between some Brujah and demon breeds, young man." 'Burt' looked into the diamond on the end of his walking stick and pondered something, "I admit that I was disheartened to hear that the demons were allowed to get this close to our Haven, but I assure you that no person has ever been killed here that has not committed some offense to our Clan or has endangered the Masquerade."

Abby looked at him and he made a gesture that clearly translated to 'I'll explain later', "But why approach me? I haven't hunted your kind in years, and even then it was a case of mistaken identity."

Diana nodded, looking into a goblet of what he guessed was blood cut with a fine red wine, "True, but your exploits with the Slayer, the both of them, and on your own are occasionally worrisome - we of the Toreador wished to assure you that we bear you no ill will and would apprise you of anything that you needed to know about."

He nodded and picked up the goblet that had been placed before him after being seated, standing as he did and holding it up, "Know that I hold no ill will towards Clan Toreador and that I welcome their friendship." They all raised their goblets, save Abby, and they drank - the coppery taste of blood mixed with wine hit his tounge and he swallowed without changing his expression, "A fine mixture - Bordeaux?"

"Merlot, though the pair are often confused when mixed with our … beverage of choice." Diana was looking at Abby, who was pale and sickly-looking at this point, before moving on, "Now, I must ask, as this is an opportunity that shall probably not come too often - have you ever contemplated eternity?"

Chapter 5

One Hour later - En route to Xander's Apartment

Abby had been remarkably quiet since they had left the club nearly a half-hour before - he had expected her to blow up at him immediately, but she had shown surprising restraint in her temper so far, "Go ahead and say it, Abby - what the hell was I thinking?"

"WHAT IN GOD'S NAME WERE YOU FUCKING THINKING, ALEXANDER LAVELLE HARRIS?" She turned in her seat and glared at him as he drove the car back to his apartment, the back up and tech-support people just behind them, "Who and what were those things?"

"Clan Toreador of the Kindred - they were vampires, Abby, but not the same kind of vampires I kill; they have their souls and don't want to rule the world, per se, they just want to run it in hopes of keeping their own little population alive … as it were."

She stewed over that for a minute until she sat back in her seat with a huff, "Why did you deal with them, Xander? How could you do that to another Marine?"

"Abby, trust me, when you get to know me for who I really am, you'll see just what I am capable of - no, I don't like having to let that Marine go as an unsolved case, but you heard the man, he was an innocent bystander who was caught in the crossfire."

"And you BELIEVED him? Why?"

"Because of the serum in the drink that they had passed out to us - it induces truthfulness even as it reacts with both the blood and the wine. Effective for up to five feet if inhaled from the source and for ten hours if ingested."

She blinked at this, "So, you can't lie to me for the next seven hours?"

"Not as such - it was made for their metabolisms, so with me it would have a less pronounced effect. I could lie to you, but what reason do I have for doing that?"

She was silent for about ten minutes and then spoke again, her voice a soft whisper, "Did you mean what you said when we first met? That you'd lost everyone you ever cared for so you don't let anyone in?"

"To an extent - yes, Buffy, Joyce, Jenny, Ampata, Cordy and even my mother are dead, Willow's a recovering addict, Dawnie and Faith are both different people now, and God alone knows what Anya and I could have been. Fact is, you're the only friend I have of the female variety that hasn't tried to kill me."

"So you've … let me in?"

"Is there a problem, Abs?"

She was silent for a beat and then sighed, "No, but Tim's all resentful about how you and I just … click, you know? I think he's trying to deal with it, but he can't." He was about to say something about that, but she cut him off with another question, "What did she mean about Eternity? Did they want to turn you?"

"They were probably seeing how well I would take such an offer - they aren't the first to make it, but with them at least I know it's not a ploy." His mind drifted back to that night in February with Drusilla offering him eternity, even as he spoke again, "Think of it as a future reference thing - if they ever find themselves or myself in a position that one needs the other full-time, then the offer would be made and either accepted or declined."

"Who offered it to you before?"

"A vampires, Drusilla - completely insane, yet she saw the future, and for a single night she, and every other woman in Sunnydale except for the one I intended, was absolutely in love with me after I made the bone-headed mistake of tampering with love magic."

Abby's lips quirked into a grin, "EVERY woman? Even that Dawn girl you told me about?"

He grimaced at that thought, "Yeah, even my Dawn Patrol - her sister came to me in a raincoat with nothing under it, Willow had on one of my shirts and little else, but Dawnie had on an old Brownie's outfit and was offering … well, let's not get into that." His cheeks were burning even as Abby's eyes widened and her grin spread over her face.

"You got hit on by a TWELVE year old? Go Alex!" She giggled away at that for several minutes but then sobered, "Did you ever consider her offer?"

Xander looked at her, "Dawn was 12, Abby!"

She shot him a look, "Not Dawn - that vampire, Drusilla. Did you ever really consider it?"

He thought back to his own thoughts on it and then nodded, "Once or twice - I was in a bad place after that night, and during the next few months, and I seriously considered it, but never actually worked up the courage to say yes." Add to that the funky nightmares he'd had for the next month after the initial offer on just how bad and how much the suffering would be if he was unleashed upon the Sunnydale population and the Scoobies - he knew them all better than anyone and he could and would have exploited each weakness to it's fullest extent.

"And this offer? Would you consider this one?"

"Only as a last resort, Abby." He turned on the radio at that and, as if by magic, Papa Roach's 'Last Resort' started blasting out over the speakers - Abby started headbanging to it and he only sighed, "Is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?"

Next Day, 0900 - Bull Pen

Gibbs looked up at the kid and knew that he was hiding something, but what he couldn't figure out, "And this is all you got from her?"

"All that mattered to the case, Gunny - rival gangs had it out and our Marine was at the wrong place at the wrong time."

"They ripped out his throat, Harris - how in the hell is that going to fit in as 'wrong place, wrong time'?"

"No witnesses, Gunny, scorched Earth - you remember those policies, right?" Unfortunately, he knew exactly what the kid was talking about - both had been employed to perform such jobs, though the kid had the out of doing it with explosives while he'd been forced to do with his sidearm and assault rifle.

"Enough said, Alex - I trust I will get the full story some time?" Gibbs wasn't stupid, despite what his track record of three ex-wives said, and knew that when it was necessary, the kid would tell him what he needed to know.

That didn't mean that he had to like it.

Later that day - Autopsy

"Still thinking about what you basically did, Alex?" He didn't even look back at Abby as he watched the body of the Marine, now identified as PFC Michael Dunbar, being loaded up for transport and burial, "It's not like you could have changed anything, Alex - he'd still be dead."

"I know, Abs, but that doesn't mean that I like it." He felt her step in close and wrapped an arm around her shoulder as she sank into his side and the doors to Autopsy opened, "And I hope I never do start to like it."

Outside Autopsy

Tim watched as Harris hugged Abby and angrily opened the doors in time to hear, "And I hope I never start to like it."

Tim didn't even think after that - he only charged forwards.

Bull Pen

Gibbs picked up his phone, "Hello?"

(Gibbs, get down here this instant! Agent McGee is trying to kill Alexander!)

Ducky sounded panicked and that was never a good thing - Gibbs only slammed down the phone and took off running past both Tony and Kate, whom he heard join him as he forewent the elevator and raced down the stairs towards Autopsy. Upon arrival, he saw something that would probably chill his blood even to his dying day - Abby was out cold on the ground, Ducky was trying to get her to wake up, McGee had his gun pressed to Harris' forehead and Harris had one scalpel at McGee's jugular and the other almost in his crotch, "Put it down, McGee and the same goes for you, Harris!"

Tony went past him on his right, weapon drawn and pointed at McGee while Kate went to Ducky to help Abby. "Put it down, Rookie - both of you!"

"He's trying to take Abby from me, Tony - I WON'T let that happen!"

"And shooting him is the answer to that? Harris, let go of the scalpels."

"No can do, Tony - this son of a bitch hurt Abby and I plan to use his hide for binding my books, as promised." Gibbs actually stopped at the absolute lack of emotion in Harris' voice even as Abby groaned and Kate stood up, he own sidearm drawn.

"Xander, just calm down and tell us what's going on. Why did McGee attack you?"

"I don't know - I was hugging Abby and then he comes out of nowhere to tackle me, he punches her when she tries to separate us and ... well, it was on then." Gibbs looked at McGee, who was now grimacing at the pressure being applied by Alex to the scalpels, "Do you have anything to say for yourself, twerp?"

"She's my girlfriend, Harris - you had your shot, and you didn't take it."

Gibbs cleared his throat, "Agents, put your weapons down and step away - that's an ORDER." Harris immediately complied, as if daring McGee to do so, and all were surprised when he did, "Now, McGee, did you attack him from behind, hit Abby and draw your weapon on him?"

"Yes, I did."

"Harris, do you still attest to not being sure why McGee attacked you?"

"Aside from the fact that he thinks Abby and I have something going on, which we don't, then yes, that's what I think. Though, respectfully, Gunny, if he's that insecure about losing her, then he either needs to step it up or make tracks." Thankfully, Kate had McGee's gun by that point, so he only snarled and lunged, but Tony stopped him from going too far.

"There will be disciplinary action for this - trust me. We're going to see the Director … NOW."

Chapter 6

"Agents McGee and Harris, what in the hell were you two thinking?"

Tim looked down at his hands in his lap, "I wasn't, sir."

"Survival, sir." McGee shot him a glare and found it to be promptly ignored, "Sir, all due respect, can we just cut to the chase? Are we fired or not?"

The older man looked somewhat approving of the blunt question, but only in his eyes, "While Agent McGee has finished his probationary period, you, Agent Harris, have been with us for less than a week - tell me why we should not terminate your tenure with us."

Harris only shrugged, "Well, sir, while I'm fairly new here, I was attacked and I defended myself."

"He was getting into matters that he had no right to be involved in, sir."

The Director looked at him, "McGee, you're both on thin ice here - let him finish."

"Thank you, sir - as I was saying, I was attacked, and I defended myself. Had it stopped there, or stayed like that, I'd have no problem with what happened or will happen with your decision, but he hit Abby, sir - that alone should mean I get to beat him black and blue."

The Director looked at him and Tim felt like he was sitting back in his old grade school and was being looked at by his old principal, "Well, Agent McGee? Do you wish to refute this?"

"Abby shouldn't have gotten involved, sir - I'm sorry that I hit her, but I … I just wanted Harris out of the way. He's messing with my girlfriend, sir, and I won't stand for that."

"So you attack him and then hit her when she tries to stop you? Agent McGee, do you realize how very little sense you're making?" The Director sighed and Tim winced, "When was your last piss test, McGee?"

Tim frowned and thought back, "Two months, sir."

"Get another one - if you've been dosed with anything, it'll show up. You're both on suspension pending the outcome of the test, now turn in your badges, sidearms and get out of here."

Even as Tim stood, he could hear the flushing sound of his career going down the toilet … and possibly his relationship with Abby.

Bull Pen - ten minutes later

"This has to be some kind of a record, Tony." He looked up and saw Kate at her desk watching Alex shuffle through some papers and gather some things, "Suspension after only four days?"

"Three days, Kate, and it probably is a record - though to tell you the truth, I'm surprised that McGee still has his job." Tony was simmering at the black eye that Abby was developing, but he also knew that both Gibbs and Ducky were at full-on boils at it, "So, Xander, what's happening on your impromptu vacation?"

"Unpacking, for the most part, and getting in touch with some old friends, maybe even inviting Ducky over for some WCC on television." Tony smiled at that - it was almost impossible to find a good game on these days, but Harris always knew when and where to watch, "Can you two try to not either kill each other or rip the other's clothes off while I'm gone? I'm in on both of the pools and I have to be here if it happens."

Tony arched an eyebrow at Kate, who was blushing slightly, and then looked at his younger counterpart, "Uh, what pool, Xander?"

Xander looked up and blinked, "You mean you honestly don't know about it? Two pools - one has Kate shooting you by the end of the year and the other has you two going at it like horny rabbits by Valentines day."

Tony felt the heat rise in his cheeks even as Kate promptly sank her head into her desk with embarrassment, though he had to admit that her cheeks were a very nice rose color, "Ah, and how much is this pool up to?"

Xander scratched his chin, "Ah, five grand, I think. A few others are up, though, and I think I won one of them yesterday." He picked up the box of stuff he was taking with him, "Just hold off a few days, alright? One way or another." With that, he left and Kate raised her head, her cheeks still on fire.

"Did you have any idea about them, Tony?"

He only shrugged, "About the first one, I should have guessed, but not about the second." She nodded and then he smiled as Gibbs walked up, "So, Kate, what're you doing tonight?" Gibbs stopped and looked at him while Kate just glared.

Outside of Forensics

After a quick stop down in the garage lock-up to find if he had indeed won the pot, which he was surprised that he had not - Ducky had, by specifying the weaponry and place of the blow up between him and McGee (he was somewhat shocked and dismayed that the people of NCIS had nothing else better to do than to bet on things of this nature), he'd dropped his stuff off in his car and went to Forensics, his gut clenching as he did. How was he going to be able to look at her after what had happened? With a sigh, he opened the door to Forensics and walked in.

Abby looked up from her work and he repressed a growl - her right eye was swollen and blackening, but another thing he saw were tears, "Hi."

He was silent for a moment and then sighed, "God, Abby, I'm sorry."

She sniffed and put down the pen she was writing with, "You still have your job?"

"For the time being - suspension for a week and Tim needs a piss test to see if he's under anything." He took a seat across from her and sighed, "Do you think he's using?"

She shook her head slowly but emphatically, "No, he's not into drugs - I have to practically strap him down to get him to drink a Red Bull."

He leaned back in his chair, his mind going over that piece of information, "Which means he's either hiding his using from you or he's being influenced."

She looked at him, "Influenced?"

He nodded, "Yeah - Clan Toreador is the most manipulative of the Clans, and they can use their own inborn powers to make anyone do practically anything, but only if they are powerful enough."

"Mistress Diana?"

He shook his head, "No, she runs the Haven, The Black Death, and doesn't leave it very often, and if she did leave it, she'd never come this far. No, we have someone else around here … and they were in NCIS when they did it, well, IF they did it." He sighed again, something he was doing a great deal lately, and stood up, "See you on the flip side, Abby."

"I'll stop by tonight and help you unpack - we need to talk about these Clans some more." She picked up her pen again and went back to work, allowing him to leave not only Forensics, but the building as well.

Xander's Apartment

He knew the second that he opened his door that someone else was in the apartment - he'd left his costume from the previous night on the table when he left for work that morning and now it was spread out on his couch, as if someone he been looking at it. His kitchen light was on and someone was humming away in there, which was another big clue that just said 'DUH! Of course someone is here', so he sounded out, "I'm not sure who you are, but if you touch that pizza in the fridge, I don't care how beautiful you are, you're dead."

"Aw, come on, Xand, can't I have a slice?" Out of the kitchen walked a beautiful brunette, dressed in jeans and a halter top, her hair worn long and her face bare of all makeup - she didn't need any, "Besides, when have you ever had a problem with your Dawn Patrol coming to visit you?"

"Only when you came without bringing Girl Scout cookies with you." The remark had the desired result - Dawn, technically, never did dress as the Brownie on that fateful February night, but they both remembered it and she blushed so red that he figured she would have a stroke before he got the chance to hug her.

"Well, I did, but SOMEBODY," she glared at his room, where someone was apparently hiding, "got the munchies on the way over and went spelunking in my bag."

As if on cue, his door opened and both Faith and Willow came out of the his room, both dressed impeccably, well, Willow was - Faith was wearing his normal leather pants, a halter like Dawn's and had on a patch to help her with the nicotine cravings. Willow squealed and tried to powder his ribs with a hug while Dawn joined in and became attached to his side - they stayed like that for several minutes before they parted and Faith took their place, though the hug was not as strong but no-less heart-felt.

Once they parted, Dawn held up the leather pants, "What's up with these and can we see you in them?" Faith looked at them appreciatively while Willow turned blood red in embarrassment, "Or is there something you want to tell us, Xand?"

"They were for a meeting last night, Dawn."

She quirked a smile, "A booty call?"

He gave her a withering glare, "No, with the Clan Toreador in Charleston." This shut them up and got them to take things seriously as he gave them the generalities of the meeting and what had led up to it, "Which leads me to believe that if they were involved, they either had a way to get into HQ or had one of their ghouls there."

Faith was the first to recover, "You can't stay out of trouble, can you?"

He stiffened slightly, "Hey, it wasn't my fault - they came to me." Dawn scooted over and too a seat next to him even as he went on, "Either way, we've got a mutual agreement to leave the other alone."

Dawn wormed her way under his arm and sighed happily, "So, you have the week off?"

"Yes." He absently stroked her hair and put his feet up, "Doesn't mean that I can take off, though - I have to unpack, shop, all sorts of thing." Dawn perked up at this, as did Willow, but then he amended, "Food shopping - I have all the furniture that I need and want."

Faith took up position on his other side but didn't worm her way under his arm, "So, what are you doing now, I mean, you're out of the Army, right?"

He gave her a look, "Marines, and I work for NCIS - we're who lead up to the JAG corps doing their thing. I'm what amounts to a cop for the military, or rather a detective."

"So my future husband is in law enforcement?" He looked over at Dawn, who smiled angelically, "Hey, I'm 18 in seven months."

Faith grabbed his arm and dragged him towards her, firmly placing the side of his head into her breasts, "Hey, pip, he's mine first."

Willow spoke up next, "Can't we all share?" He looked at her, as did Dawn and Faith, and she blushed, "Did I just say that out loud?"

"Thinking of batting for both teams, Red? Kinky." He looked over at Dawn, scandalized while Faith erupted into laughter - this was going to be a long day.

That evening

Faith spread out on the couch leisurely even as she watched Xander move some pictures, Dawn tell him which way they needed to go and Red was cooking away in the kitchen; she missed these kinds of times, just being able to relax with her friends, and now she had some real friends to relax with. She and pip were tight, like sisters now that B was gone, and Red, well, they'd never be friends after what happened back in the day between her and X, but they were working on it, and Xander, well, he was the one person who didn't just her and she could be herself around.

When she'd come out of her coma, he found that not only had he been visiting her every few days in the hospital, he'd also gotten the Watcher's Council to take the black mark off of her record by way of 'persuasion', though she later learned that he threatened to bomb them back into the stone age and proved it by blowing one of their storage units, supposedly impervious to all would-be attackers, sky high. He'd joined the military behind B's and Red's backs, which had royally pissed them off at first, but he'd left them all a note that said, basically, that after that stunt of trying to push him out 'for his own good', he'd resigned himself to either learn to do something worth his while or leave either way - he wasn't going to be played like that and both B and Red were more than a little embarrassed by the ass-chewing they got from Joyce and G on it.

She and B had not hit it off, not that she expected them to, once she woke up, but a call/long-distance ass chewing from X had told her that if Angelus got a second chance, Faith deserved one too. They'd worked on it for a while, even with her (B's) boy toy, Captain Cardboard Finn, dropping info on just what X was doing at the time (his schooling as a demolitions dude had seriously freaked out Red, but pip, B and even G were cool with it at first); she'd been hit on by some of Finn's friends, but after swearing off that lifestyle, she was clean and really hard up sometimes - no joke, being chaste was seriously hard work and seeing Xander's backside like that, trying to hang pictures, gave her some interesting ideas. She shook those ideas out of her head as Dawn turned around and went back to thinking.

When Joyce died, B was seriously messed up, so was Dawn, and when she asked Captain Cardboard to find X, he told her that X was out of the country on some super secret op or something - X sent a card and even showed up for a night to visit Joyce. It'd been rough, seeing the big, bad Marine that X had become just break down in front of the grave - Faith had been patrolling that night and run across him, but said nothing as she just walked up and crouched next to him; they talked for about an hour, before he said that he had to bail and get back to base. Before he left, though, he was able to do Faith a solid and dust that son of a bitch Spike, who had been making eyes at Pip for a while - she had it on tape, somewhere, and would show it to the Pip when she got older.

Red, well, that had been another story all together - while at first they were still standing off like circling Dobermans, when Tara had gotten them to at least talk, they'd worked out their problems to an extent. Tara, now, there was a seriously cool Wicca babe - she had this whole aura of happy and kindness that seemed to permeate the area and when she was killed, it was pretty much even money on who would kill that jackass Meers, her or Red. She was going to miss that babe - seriously wicked when she was naked, too, doing spells and the like.

"You alright, Faith?" She jerked and saw that Xand was looking at her from in front of the picture, which was actually a group of guys, dressed in full camo, ready to go out and do something wicked, "You look flushed."

"Nah, I'm cool, just thinking, you know?" She sat up and Xander sat next to her, allowing her to lean over on him, much to Pip's disapproval from the glare that was shot her way, "All the 'what ifs' and stuff like that - gets a girl thinking after a while."

He nodded sagely, "So, what's got you thinking right now?"

She shrugged, "You know, just thinking - general stuff." She let her mind drift to when she'd been able to get away long enough to go visit him when he was stationed in San Diego - they'd talked for hours, just sitting there in a park, and when it was time for them to leave, they had just held each other for probably ten minutes until a scream broke them apart.

"Ah, the infamous 'general stuff'. Abby's a big fan of that."

She looked at him, "And who is this mysterious Abby that you and Pip talk about so much?"

"Met her my first time here in town at NCIS - we're friends. Goth, but pretty cool and really smart."

"As smart as me, Xander?" Red walked into the room and was holding a pan of what smelled to be brownies, "Have you replaced me that quickly?"

"Well, she doesn't know magic, so she can't mess up spells like you." Red gawked at that while Pip chuckled and Faith felt her lips curl into a smile. His door was then knocked on and he got up, much to her displeasure as he answered it, "Abby, you're here."

"And where else would I … be? Alex, who're these people?" She was dressed in long pants, way too baggy, a t-shirt and had her hair in black pigtails, allowing Faith to see the spider web tat across her neck - girl wasn't much to really look at, but she seemed nice enough.

"Willow, Dawn and Faith, from left to right - girls, this is the one, the only, Abby." Dawn growled slightly and Faith knew this was about to get ugly.

Chapter 7

Xander's Apartment - one hour later

Much to his credit, Xander had stayed in the room while Faith, Abby and Willow all glared at each other, but Dawn knew that it was more of him keeping an eye on his stuff from getting destroyed rather than any real want to be there. That point was made rather clearly by the way he was using her body as a human shield as Faith and Abby had stood up a few seconds ago and were walking towards each other.

"So, you're the mysterious Abby boy toy and Pip keep talking about."

"And you're the legendary Faith I've heard of so often from Xander."

"And I am the wonderful Willow who wants the both of you two sit down and stop fighting over my best friend." Dawn arched an eyebrow at that comment, knowing that Willow wanted Xander just as much now as when Buffy and she had first moved to Sunnydale - Kennedy had just been a phase, apparently, and the Wicked Red Wicca of the West was now itching for some Xander lovin' … just like she and Faith and, apparently, Abby were.

"Can we all stop the posturing and just get to the point? We all want Xander for our own and apparently neither of you two want to share. I get that, but if what Anya said back in Sunnydale was true, he has enough to go around." She felt Xander push himself away from her and put himself away from all of them.

"Traitor, and Anya and I never did anything together except go to prom together."

Dawn smiled hugely, "She did a spell once to show me and … well, you are definitely going to get married to me one way or another, even if we have to move to Utah and become Mormons." She couldn't help but giggle at the way he blushed, and she blithely ignored the death glares she was getting from both Abby and Faith (Willow was too busy blushing for anything else).

Faith only shrugged, "Hey, he and I did it once and trust me, Pip, Anya wasn't joking. Still, I think I may need to steer him around the curves to see just how well he works, you know? Can't have him disappointing you or Red."

Abby bristled at this, "Look, missy, if anybody around here is keeping their paws off of Xander, it's you." She and Faith glared at each other and Xander sighed.

"Alright, damn it, that's enough! Willow, do your mojo thing and look for anything that isn't supposed to be here - something most definitely isn't right." Dawn blanched at what that meant - someone might be using magic to make them feel like this, well, to make Faith, Willow and Abby feel like that, as Dawn herself had been having uber-lusty thoughts of Xander since the day she had seen him in that Speedo.

Willow did her thing and then squawked in shock, "Someone's outside and he's doing this!"

Xander snarled and was out the door like a shot, taking two or three strides out the door before zeroing in on something or someone and launching himself over a hedge. All in all, Dawn had to admit that she was impressed at the amount of hang time that he had in mid-air, and even more impressed with the solid sound of a Xander-shaped body impacting on the mojo-using body with great force and then hearing a thud that said that a head had hit the concrete hard enough to knock the person out.

Dawn was a second behind Faith, who had beaten her out of the door, with Abby and Willow just behind her, and they all saw a vacant-eyed man being roughly searched over by a furious Xander - Dawn didn't want to be that guy when he woke up; the last time she had seen him in this kind of a mood, Mister Gordo had been impaled on a stake from nearly ten feet away without even looking.

Later - Unknown Location

His head hurt - there was no two ways about it, but what was amazing was that the guy he had been sent to spy on and influence had done something that he would have never expected of someone who had been tampered with … he'd been allowed to live. This, of course, meant that the guy and the girls wanted answers and would probably get them one way or another.

"So, you're awake." The man's voice was like ice even as he struggled against the bonds on his feet and wrists, "Don't even bother - those things are magically reinforced and you're going nowhere, ghoul or no ghoul." He felt his eyes widen as the duct tape on his mouth kept him from gasping at the sight of Harris walking out of the shadows and holding a nasty-looking knife, "Now, I want answers, and I am going to get them even if I have to start carving your internal organs out of you and sending them back to your Master, okay?" He nodded and ripped the tape off, which stung more than it hurt, "Now, what's your name or do I just start calling you 'Dumb Ass'?"

"M-Michael." He hated the stutter in his voice, but it always happened when he got nervous, and the sight of Harris, in what now registered as black cammies, holding that knife and testing the edge with his thumb, made him very nervous.

"Well then, Mike, do you mind if I call you Mike? Regardless, Mike, why were you sent to my apartment?"

"I was sent to … to watch you and to be a conduit." His Master would kill him for this, and Michael knew it.

"For whom?"

"My Master."

Harris' eyes narrowed, "And your Master's name and Clan?"

Michael clenched his teeth before biting out, "I will not tell you, human."

Harris, though, only laughed, "Oh, my dear ghoul, do you really think that you have a choice in the matter? Do you see her?" Michael turned his head to follow the point of the knife and saw a beautiful brunette in leather pants and a halter-top, "She's the Slayer."

Michael felt his bowels loosen even as the sex-bomb smiled, "Hi. I'd tell him what he wants to know, or he gets ugly. You see, I have this thing against killing humans, but he doesn't."

Harris walked forwards and laid the edge of the knife against the back of his left ear, "Now, are you going to answer me, or do I start taking parts off of you?"

Michael closed his eyes, took a breath, and spoke, "Gangrel, my Master is named Timothy, and he is Gangrel."

"Very good - where can I find this Timothy?" Michael could continue to answer the questions for the next few hours, knowing that, either way, he was a dead man.

Later - The Black Death

Diana smiled as she recognized the face of Agent Harris, but frowned when she saw that he was not only alone, but also in a foul mood, "Is there a problem, Mister Harris?"

"Tell the Gangrel Clan and a Master named Timothy to back off - they screwed with me and mine today in my own apartment, though I am curious how they did that. Since when have they become proficient in anything other than animal transformations and getting in touch with their inner beast?"

Diana frowned - this was a very disturbing development, "Never, that I am aware of, Alexander. Tell me, was anyone hurt?"

"No, thankfully - get it out, Diana, that while I may be tolerant of the Kindred and what they do in this town, I will NOT allow my friends and I to become their puppets to do so with as they see fit."

Diana began to fume silently, "I shall make inquiries, Alexander, and when I have something, you shall be the first to know." He nodded and she turned away to go make her calls, knowing that something was very amiss if not only the Gangrel Clan was up to no good in this town, but if perhaps someone from their own ranks had gone rogue … or someone from her own Clan.

In under an hour, she had called together the leading members of her Clan in the city and paced back and forth in front of them, explaining what had happened and what she had been told, "Have any of you lost someone from your numbers as of late? An unexplained disappearance, even for one of our own kind?"

"Yes, my youngest Childe, Danielle, and this does indeed sound like something she could do." She looked at her long-time friend, Jean Paul Dorir, who's eyes were like blue gray pieces of stone and his somewhat pale features made him even more striking in that he wasn't a large man, as many artists were, but rather more of a thinker and a poet than a sculptor. "Did she use a ghoul as a conduit for her powers?"

"Yes, she did, or rather, whoever it was did indeed use a ghoul."

Jean Paul sighed, "Then I fear it is she - if there was ever a fault in my childe, it is that she never wished to get her hands dirty. What options has Agent Harris given us?"

"To police our own and to make sure to get the word out, or to let it be known that he will begin to actively hunt both our kind and the demon breeds." Diana shivered, "I am not sure what any of you are thinking, but I must say that I would prefer to call a blood hunt on one of our own than to risk exposure."

Jean Paul sighed, "Yes, while I would hate to see such potential wasted in my childe, she does not leave us much choice in the matter - all in favor of protecting the Masquerade and calling Blood Hunt on one of our own, raise your hands."

Diana was both proud and disheartened to see every hand in the room in the air.

2000 hours - Xander's Apartment

Abby was on the floor, her feet in the air and waving back and forth as she watched the screen, occasionally taking a handful of popcorn from the bowl she shared with Willow, who had joined her some time back; Dawn was softly snoring on his left shoulder and had wrapped his arm close to her body, using him as a pillow while Faith was on his right, feet propped up on his coffee table and chuckling slightly at the antics of Laurel and Hardy as they faced the Wolf Man. It had been about a half of an hour since he had returned from Charlestown and The Black Death and all along the way he had not sat easily as he recalled not only the demise of the ghoul, who had been reduced into a puddle of steaming goo on the floor and in the chair by a lack of his Master's blood, and by the news of what had been called upon by the Toreador Masters.

He had first come across the Kindred back in Sunnydale, during his own tenure as the Slayer after Buffy bailed on her responsibility - he had been at Willy's getting information from the rat-faced man, when a pair of bruisers had entered the bar and the few vampires he could see began to shiver in their boots. Both of them were built like the perfect linemen that any coach would have wanted in his dreams, but both of them had an air about them that said that not only were they not normal, that they were not normal even for vampires, and they'd kill anyone who got in their way. Naturally, as he tried to leave, one of them, who identified himself as 'Brutus, Brujah Clan', told him to go home and to leave the real work to the real men - that went over as well as Roseanne singing the National Anthem and he'd pulled his sidearm, an old Government Issue .45 and put it into the throat of the giant. While he had been expecting anger, perhaps even hoping for fear, what he got was not even on the list of things he was expecting - laughter.

Brutus and his friend, who turned out to be named Moose, were looking for Spike and when they couldn't find him (something about the bleached wonder owing them payment on a big poker game or something), they'd started looking around - Brutus made a comment about the amount of chutzpah it took to pull a GUN on a Kindred, and the sheer size of the brass balls to think that they'd get away with it too. Xander responded by pulling the hammer back and pulling out a small object from his belt, asking what exactly a Kindred was, and got an answer that shocked him, 'ask the Watcher, kid - he'll know of us'. They let him go and he made tracks for Giles' house, almost breaking the door down and telling the man of what had gone down - the response he got sent his stomach past the floorboards of the room and into the Core of th Earth, 'Oh, Good Lord'. Giles told him of the Clans, the Kindred and of the Sabaat, but also of an ancient treaty between the Council and the Kindred - neither would interfere with the other and all agents would be known to the other in hopes of not stepping on any toes.

Xander's mind came back to him as Faith tapped him on the arm, "Boy toy, some chick called Diana's on the phone."

She handed it over and he put it to his ear, "Hello?"

"Boy Toy? My, Agent Harris, does Abigail know about her?"

"They met earlier, Diana - what's up?" He listened for a moment and the sighed, "Understood - give Jean Paul my condolences." He ended the call and handed it back to Faith, "The Kindred responsible has been … dealt with."

Faith nodded and Willow looked back, her eyes a mystery as Abby also looked back, her brows drawn together in confusion, "So, like, what happens now?"

"We forget it ever happened and move on - Tim gets the results of his piss test in two days and we all find out if there's one or two people in the unemployment line." Leaning his head over on Dawn's head, he sighed and watched the movie some more as Faith curled into his side and began to doze off. The rest of the week would be very interesting, that much was sure.

Chapter 8

Two days later - NCIS HQ, Director's Office

Tim McGee was quaking in his boots, as it were, while Alex Harris was standing at attention as only a soldier could - the former looked ready to piss himself with worry while the latter appeared to not have a care in the world over what was about to happen. Gibbs had to give them both credit where credit was due in that they were dealing with their anxiety in their own way as the Director read over the reports and findings from the piss test.

"Agent Timothy McGee, you came back clean on your test, which leads me to believe that your altercation and attack on Agent Alexander Harris was made in a moment of extreme emotional duress. Your record to this point has been more than adequate and I am sure you will make a fine senior Agent one day, but as to the seriousness of this attack and assault, I will be making a note of this in your permanent record and I ask that you seek counseling for your actions."

"Thank you, sir - I hope I don't disappoint you."

"Nor do I, Agent McGee. Now, as for you, Agent Alexander Harris, your own tests came back as clean as we could expect for someone who has just left your post in the Military and for your tenure as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician, and this leads me to believe that, yet, you did indeed feel a threat from Agent McGee and defended yourself, something that Doctor Mallard attests to. I must say, though, that your skills and your background from Sunnydale make me wonder if you are what we need here in NCIS - why should you stay here? Why not go to the CIA or someone more … suitable, given your training?"

"Sir, Agent Gibbs made me an offer and while at the time I was skeptical of what good I could do in this department, I have since discovered that this is more challenging than my former job … and I like a challenge, sir. As for working with the CIA, sir, I don't like the spooks, nor do I trust them - I wish to stay on here at NCIS, if at all possible."

Gibbs watched as the Director nodded, "Very well, but know that this will go on your permanent record - another offense like this and you'll be fired so quickly that your head will spin. You will serve out the rest of you suspension and return to work next Monday - Dismissed." He watched as the pair walked out of the room and then the Director sighed as the door closed, "Do you think they'll get past trying to kill each other, Gibbs?"

"Sir, if Harris wanted McGee dead, McGee would be on the slab and Harris would be up for murder, sir."

The Director snorted, "Damn it, Jethro, the last thing I need is the pair of them locking horns over your lab tech, Abby - she's nice enough, but if I have to I'll transfer one of them."

"Understood, sir."

"Now, what's the update on Harris' little excursion to the club a few nights back? What did we learn about it?"

"From all reports, sir, Mistress Diana, as she is know, called a meeting right after and had a hit put out on someone who might have been influencing McGee, Harris or one of his friends - something about a Blood Hunt, from what the phone taps said."

"Did he order it?"

"No, sir - our bugs did tell us that they are scared of him, though, something about him hunting them and the 'demon breeds'. I'm not sure what they're talking about, but I get the impression that if Harris scares them, then it's for a good reason."

The Director nodded, "Keep an eye on him and his trips there, but keep it low key. Dismissed."

Bull Pen

"Here you go, Tony - WCC from last night and night before." Tony accepted the tapes with a smile from Harris, knowing that Ducky would like the outcome as well, "So, what's up?"

"Not much, yet - are you still working for us?"

"I will be on Monday - I am still suspended until then."

Tony grimaced, "Ouch."

"Hey, Xander," Abby called out as she walked towards them, the swelling on her eye having lightened visibly and shrunk as well. He and Kate had cornered McGee that morning and, in no uncertain terms, had told the twerp to back off from Abby if he was going to lose his temper like that - McGee had confessed that he didn't know what came over him when he snapped, but while Kate appeared to have been swayed by the argument, Tony wasn't, and not just because he was in on the pool that said that Harris and Abby got together by the end of the month.

"Hello, Cookie Monger." Tony looked over at Kate, who arched an eyebrow as Abby blushed, "Did you leave any at the house?"

Abby snorted, "Talk to Dawn and Faith about that - they were pigging out on the Oreos when I left like they were going out of style. I can't believe that they eat that much and stay so skinny."

"Well, Faith has a very high metabolism, which reminds me, I need to take her out for her birthday, and Dawn, well, she's always been a little bundle of energy."

Tony couldn't resist it anymore, "Hey, Xander, it sounds like you have your own little harem going at your place. I'm hurt that you didn't invite me over, man."

Xander snorted, "Kate would have skinned us both alive, and first of all, Dawn's too young for you and thinks she and I are engaged somehow, Faith, well, she and I have a history, and to get to either of them you'd need to get past Willow."

"Three? God, Harris, you're worse than Tony." Tony shot Kate a wounded look but she smiled back at him, telling him that it was all good, "Abby, are you okay with all of this?"

Abby just smiled and shrugged, "Hey, I'm not greedy, Kate, and there's enough of big man here to go around." She hugged Xander, who blushed slightly even as Tony found himself choking at the possibilities that his mind put forth to him.

"Holding out on us, kid?" Gibbs' voice was level as always, but there was a tone of amusement behind it that made Tony know that all was level and good.

"Not really, boss, just a few friends that came to visit for a while and then go back to the ol' 9 to 5 grind."

"And they do what, precisely?"

Xander looked over at Kate, "Dawn's in school, Willow's going back to college and working on the side and Faith's working construction."

"And this Dawn girl is hung up on you?"

Abby grinned, "Oh, yeah - she used to write 'Mrs. Dawn Harris' in her diary, according to Willow, since, like she was thirteen or something."

Tony chuckled, "So Abby gets you all to herself?"

"Until the fall when Dawn moves out here to go to college, and knowing both Faith and Willow, they won't let their little sister go anywhere alone." Xander sighed and slumped onto Kate's desk, "Sometimes I figure that someone up there is out to get me … but what a way to go."

Gibbs smiled at that while Tony found himself chuckled as Kate and Abby looked at him and muttered, "Pig," though Abby added in a slap to the back of Xander's head, but a playful slap at that.

"Hey Abby, can we talk for a second?" All humor left as Tim McGee walked into the Bull Pen, looking very nervous as he did, and made sure to stay as far away from Xander as he could.

Abby arched an eyebrow, "I think you have said all that needed to be said, Tim. Or don't you remember this?" She showed him the black eye and for a second, Tony could have sworn he heard Xander growl and his eyes almost glow yellow, but he kept it to himself and blamed it on the bad coffee.

"Look, Abby, I'm sorry about that, but we really need to talk. Please?"

Abby sighed, "Alright, McGee - give me a few minutes and we'll talk." The twerp nodded and moved off as Harris moved to where his desk was picked up a cup of coffee, drinking it before Tony could say that it was Gibbs' own blend. "See you guys in a bit - Tim and I need to talk."

Abby left and Gibbs looked over at Harris, who was grimacing at the coffee, "You don't like my coffee, Harris?"

"Not particularly, Gunny - even the Navy makes a better cup than this." Tony winced in unison with Kate - this wasn't going to be pretty.

Stairwell - five minutes later

Tim felt really nervous about what he was about to do - it was perhaps the biggest and most foolish step he had ever attempted to go after, and if he failed, well, it would have to be something he would live with.

"Alright, McGee - talk fast."

He sucked in a breath and let it out, "Marry me."

Chapter 9

Evening - Harris Residence

Willow snored contently next to her Xander-shaped pillow as he sat on the floor, while Dawn found herself between Faith and Xander, prime real estate in her own mind, and that was the precise moment that the door was knocked on - Xander slipped out of the grip of Willow and Dawn moved over to take his spot, knowing that a cranky Willow was not a good Willow. Xander opened the door and Abby rushed in, babbling in a voice worthy of Willow on a mega-overdose of caffeine, a lack of sleep and being really excited about something. Dawn frowned even as Faith stood up - something had happened and it looked like it could be of the bad.

"Slow down, Abby, and breathe." The Goth did and took several deep breaths as Xander held her shoulders, "Now, tell me what happened in a series of short sentences."

"Tim asked me to marry him." Dawn had an immediate reaction of mixed feelings - if she said yes, there would be one less person in contention for her man, but then that would mean that 'the dork', as she had tagged him, would be hanging around more if Abby and Xander kept hanging around them.

Xander, on the other hand, just blinked, "And you said?"

"I had to think about it. Look, Xander, you're a nice guy and all, but me and Tim, well, it's more on another level than what you and I are."

Xander, much to her surprise, took the sentence in stride, "Abs, I know - trust me, if you and I ever did get married, we'd kill each other by the end of the week."

Abby looked hurt by that, "Hey, I think we'd at least wait a month before the homicide attempts started. Either way, I am SERIOUSLY freaked out by this, guys - what do I say?"

Faith, the mistress of tact that she was, yawned slightly, "Say yes, but if he screws around on you rip his balls off and use them for either ball bearings or fertilizer."

"Thank you for the mental image, Faith." Faith beamed at Xander and promptly went to sleep, but Dawn got up, not wanting to be a Dawn-sized pulushie doll to be squeezed by a strength-enhanced Slayer. "So, Abs, what is your idea to tell him either yes or no?"

Dawn sat next to the Goth as said Goth sighed, "I don't know, Alex - if I say yes, then I'll have to tone down my partying and, well, I like my parties. If I say no, though, I'll break his heart and destroy what confidence he has. Do you know what that's like?"

Dawn snorted, "You're talking to the King of Cretins there, Abby - he's had his ego and confidence level taken down to bedrock so many times that you'd think that it was his natural level."

Xander looked at her and spoke in a very dry tone of voice, "Thank you for the help, Dawn - it's so nice to have an ego-booster like you." She smiled at him even as he went on, knowing that he meant it in sarcasm, "Anyway, Abs, as Dawnie said, yes, I've been shot down more than a few times, in fact, most of the women I dated in high school tried to kill me." Dawn repressed a growl of her own when she shot a look back to Faith, who had scooted over and was now asleep next to Willow, who had a frown on her face.

Abby looked uncertain, "So, what do you think I should do?"

Dawn watched a look cross Xander's face and then watched him sigh, "Just look at the person in the mirror and make a choice that you think is right - trust me, I've made a few decisions that a lot of people didn't like, but it made it to where I could face myself in the mirror."

Dawn frowned, "Like what?"

He looked over at her, "Remember when your sister sent Angelus to hell?" She nodded, "I knew that Willow was going to do the soul spell and I told your sister that Willow wasn't going to try it."

Dawn blanched, "You WHAT?"

"It wasn't an easy choice, Dawn, but think about it - could Buffy have beaten Angelus if she knew that Angel was coming back?" Dawn felt her blood run cold - she had never asked Buffy about it and had never even considered the possibility, "It was either her happiness and the world's destruction or her misery and the world's continued existence, Dawn, and I can live with my decision."

Abby looked very pale at that, "You lied to your friend to save the world? And you can live with that? Okay, so maybe I can take your advice at face value." Dawn sat there with the Goth while Xander went to the kitchen for something, "He's done a lot, hasn't he."

Dawn nodded absently, "I think he's done more than we'll ever know."


Xander felt like throwing up - Dawn didn't need to know about his choice to lie to her sister, but it had finally come out in order to help Abby. He'd made peace with that particularly bit of necessary treachery towards Buffy a long time ago, back before he enlisted, actually, but now it was back, that gnawing feeling that had taken up residency in his gut. He was sure that, wherever Buffy was, she was putting the sonofabitch on him something fierce, not to mention cursing his mere existence, but he could deal with it.

"So, that's how she was able to do it." Willow's voice was brittle to the point that the slightest tension could break it, "I always wondered how she survived, but now I know."

He didn't even bother to turn around, "Go ahead and rip into me, Willow. I'm sure you've got all kinds of things you want to say to me."

Willow walked up to his side and turned him to face her, then she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly, "You know, a few years ago I would have done that, but now I'm older and I like to think I'm wiser - you did what you thought was right, Xander. I can't fault you on your reasoning, now that I think about it."

"When did you wake up?"

She pulled back and blushed, "When you got up - you know I can't sleep without my Xander-shaped pillow if I go to sleep with it." She stepped back some more and hopped up on the counter, smoothing down her t-shirt and crossing her ankles, "So, now what?"

He shrugged, "Abby makes her decision and I support her in it - just like always."

She looked at him oddly, "You're not going to ask her to not marry him?"

Xander snorted, "Yeah, like I have any right whatsoever to dictate to her how her life should go, Willow. If she wants to marry him, let her, but if he ever lays a hand on her like he did a few days ago, they'll never find his body, and that's if Gibbs and the others get to him before I do." He thought back for a second, remembering what Abby had told him about that little get-together in the Bull Pen, when Tony, Kate, Gibbs and Ducky all swore that they'd kill him if Abby got hurt.

Willow arched an eyebrow, "'Ducky'?"

"Doctor Donald Mallard, the NCIS Medical Examiner - someone stuck Ducky to him a while back, you know, 'Donald' and 'Mallard'? It seems obvious now, you know, in the 'what the hell took so long' kind of way, but he doesn't seem to mind."

Willow giggled at it for a second, but then sobered, "And you're friends with him?"

Xander nodded, "Yeah, he fills the void that G-Man left when I went away for Basic - plus, aside from the fact that he doesn't seem to mind telling stories, I can now actually understand most of them." He reached into his refrigerator and pulled out a soda, tossing a root beer back to Willow without looking, which she nimbly caught, "When I was first assigned to NCIS, while I was still in the Marines, we sat in Autopsy and shot the shit while we examined the body of a Navy Commander who had been detonated with his wife and child in the car, and we just hit it off."

Willow went pale, "You hit it off with Ducky over … a dead body? Can I saw eww with a side of ick?"

Xander only shrugged, "Wills, I've seen worse than a bag full of pieces of a dead body in my time. Either way, he's kind of cool, but sometimes he can get a little long-winded."

Abby snorted as she walked into the kitchen, Dawn right behind her, and grabbed his soda as he brought it to his lips for a drink, calmly taking three or four gulps from it before putting it back in his hands, "That's an understatement, Alex." She let out a belch and covered her mouth, "'Scuse me."

Dawn reached around her, took his drink and drained the last of it, letting out with a belch of her own, "You're excused, Abby."

He looked at the still-chilled, yet empty, cola can in his hand, and threw it away, grabbing another one and popping the top, "I swear the four of you are trying to eat me out of house and home."

Dawn snorted even as Faith walked into the now-crowded kitchen, "No, SHE," she pointed at Faith, who was now rummaging in a cabinet for some munchies, "is eating you out of house and home - I swear she doesn't eat anything near this much back in Cleveland."

"Yeah, I do, but you two ate all the high-energy stuff, so I've gotta make due." She pulled out a bag of pork rinds and tore the bag open, "Besides, boy toy told me I could grub on what I wanted."

Abby smirked at this, "'Boy Toy'? Xander, is there something that you and Faith want to tell us?"

Taking a play right out of Faith's book, he slid over behind the Slayer, wrapped his arms around her, rested his cheek against her ear and began to rub his hands over her lower torso, "Why Abby, didn't you know already?"

Abby laughed, Dawn growled, Willow smirked and while he couldn't see Faith's face, he could feel her purring.

Next Morning - NCIS

Abby looked at Tim, who was looking up at her, sucked in a breath and blurted out her answer, "Yes."

Tim's reaction was priceless - his eyes rolled up inside of his head and he passed out to the floor from his chair.


Xander adjusted his 'Visitor' badge and looked around, "Slow day, Duck?"

"Yes, for once, and I quite need it after the games last night - thank you for taping them for me, Alexander. Are you okay?" Ducky had to admit, the boy looked quite frazzled, but there was a smile on his face that Composition 4 could not have take off, "You appear to have been through the wringer."

"Well, Faith and I went out for dinner last night for her birthday and had a little fun after that." Having met the indomitable Faith, Ducky could only cheer silently for the young man as he took a seat, "You know, you never did answer my question from our last meeting, Ducky - why did the leave the Watcher's Council?"

Ducky snorted, "My opinion and theirs vastly differed on a rather touchy subject, Alexander - you see, the Allied forces were unjustly blamed for the destruction of the Dresend, when it was actually the German branch of the Watcher's Council who were responsible for the fires. They had unearthed indisputable information that a significant portion of the upper echelon of the German High Command and political structure supporting Hitler were, in fact, vampiric in nature and simply took advantage of a scheduled Allied bombing raid to clear out the infestation. Rather clever of them, when you consider all of the factors involved. The leaders of the Council, however, did not like the fact that they had been involved in such an overt act and denounced that, despite the evidence, it ever happened that way, so I quit and took up medical school."

Xander blinked, "So some big wig up in power didn't like the truth, said it didn't happen and you left?" Ducky nodded, "And the British call us irrational?"

Ducky only shrugged, "I never said it was ration, Alexander - I was far too intoxicated when I turned in my resignation to care, so I proceeded to moon the entire High Council as I left the room."

Xander burst out laughing as the doors to Autopsy opened to reveal a body bag being pushed in, "Doc, we've got a weird one for you - been underground for about a day now, according to the guys in the field."

Later - still in Autopsy

Yet another young sailor had been unfortunate enough to have his throat torn out, though this time there was quite a large amount of blood in his mouth, though not the same blood that had once pumped through his veins. Ducky could see the wounds closing on his body and pulled out a cross from beneath his shirt as he made marks on his chart and the Vampire opened his eyes and began to squirm around, "Oh, please, DO stay still while I finish up this chart - I need to make this look as if it were a clerical error."

The vampire snarled and looked as if he wanted to hurl himself at his neck, the cross kept him in place as he fished around in his lab coat for something; why the vampire stayed in place, Ducky would never be sure, but it made it easier as his fingers wrapped around the stake kept in his pocket, allowing him to remove it and to insert it into the vampire's unbeating heart, turning him to dust a second later.

"Oh, dear, I never even got your name, young man. Oh well, I guess it's time to manufacture some body transport papers." With that in mind, Ducky set out to finish his job and prayed the poor soul of the young, and very deceased, sailor was resting in peace.

Chapter 10

2 months later

Xander looked around at the milling number of people and wondered just what had happened to the previous two months - Abby had said yes to Tim's proposal, they'd set up a date and, after telling everyone, had decided that a quick wedding would be great. He, Tony and Ducky had been asked to be groomsmen, with Gibbs giving Abby away, and Kate was the Maid of Honor and a few of Abby's Goth friends as Bride's maids - there was a pool going on about exactly how many threats of death Tim was under with Abby, and Xander found himself in the pool with Tony, Ducky and Gibbs for a twenty a piece, but there was also one on if it was going to be a traditional wedding, white gown, tuxes and all, and this one, seeing he had inside information, he could not bet on.

They had worked on about a dozen cases since then, Xander finding that his skills as an EOD specialist weren't all that useful as a NCIS agent, but his ability to think outside the box, not to mention his past dealings with the darkness hardening his heart and his stomach, made it to where he could learn something useful and do well with it. He and Tony got along well enough - they'd swap one-liners and play off each other like Laurel and Hardy, they'd zing Kate, be on the receiving end of the zinging by Kate and Gibbs, and even take one for the team when necessary, though nothing to the extreme of his diving in front of a body on the beach to protect it from an on-coming wave in order to preserve evidence (that was Tony's schtick). Kate had become a good friend of his over the past few months, not quite like Willow, Dawn, or Faith, or even Abby for that matter, but more on the levels of Cordy, mixed with Joyce, and with just at touch of Jenny Calendar as far as the verbal barbs and sparring, the 'Mother' look and the occasional flirting look, act or phrase. They knew it was just friendly, even if he and everyone else in NCIS knew that she and Tony would get together, it was only a matter of when. Gibbs, much like Giles, had become a surrogate father figure over the next few weeks, but also more of an old DI and a friend - while he didn't share Gibbs' passion for building boats in his basement, he and Gibbs did shoot the shit on more than a few occasions about life, love and how to avoid ex's in general.

Dawn had completed High School a day before and had excitedly called him, saying that she'd been accepted, officially, into Virginia Tech on a scholarship while Willow was able to get a transfer and Faith was coming with them 'to keep them out of trouble'; he smiled at this, knowing that he missed them all as much as they, apparently, missed him. She was still adamant about her becoming his wife, as was Faith and, though not too surprisingly, Willow, but he figured that it was more of a phase thing and that she had yet to meet Mister Right, or at least, he hoped - he didn't want to have to explain that to anybody due to the fact that if he and Dawn WERE to get married, he was sure that they'd never leave the bedroom and Faith would want in on it.

"You ready, Xander?" He looked over at Tony, who was dressed much the same as he was, in a black leather tuxedo with a red silk shirt, black tie and cummerbund, and smirked as the man tugged again and again at the leather pants, "I don't see how you wear these when you go to that Black Death place, man - it's too … something."

"Some people just can't appreciate or wear leather, Tony - though from the looks she's giving you, I think Kate appreciates the effort." He chuckled as Tony spun around to look at the leather and lace, both red, clad bride's maid, who quickly looked somewhere else than where she had been looking, namely Tony.

Even as the minister came to the front of the Gothic alter and the people went to their positions, Xander felt something in his stomach, an old instinct that he had long since learned to ignore - something wasn't right, and on this day, in this place, that meant one of several things, and he liked none of them. Being as casual as he could, he checked under his left arm and found that his service pistol was there, and then pulled up the back of his pants while checking that the stakes were there too even as the organ music began to play and the Groom, clad much the same as them, save in a white silk shirt, took his place and the bride and her 'father' appeared in the doorway. Gibbs was dressed in a traditional tux, as were many of the groom's family and friends, but Abby herself was dressed in a blasphemous parody of a wedding gown - black leather, lace and silk, all coming together with her pale skin and the white lilies she had as a bouquet. She was stunning and ready to get married.

Naturally, that was when Murphy entered the equation and all hell broke loose.

Outside - 30 seconds before

He stalked around the holy site again and could not believe the ceremony that was about to take place inside - a Goth wedding; in his nearly four hundred years of life, or rather, his unlife, he'd seen just about everything there was to see, but Timothy had to admit that this was a first. It was one of those inside, though, that he wanted to see dead - the one who had cost him his Artistic Princess, his soul mate, regardless of her clan or his.

Danielle and he had met once inside of the Toreador Haven, known to the mortals as The Black Death, when his clan was asked to send a representative, and they had not only just hit it off magnificently, he found that after four hundred years and dozens of human concubines, his emotional heart began to beat again. She was the most perfect woman he had ever seen and he spent the next year trying to seduce her to leave her clan and join him, a task that he eventually succeeded at. His own family was rather small and when the demon breeds had brushed across the Brujah at the Haven, the Marine who was killed brought out an investigative team that held someone who was pleasing to his love's eye, one Alexander Harris, or as he was occasionally called, The Replacement. He'd heard of the exploits of this human on the Hellmouth, when the Slayer had deserted after doing her job one time, and he was in awe of the pure skill the child used in his hunting - were he not a human, it would have been even money on whether or not the child would become Brujah or Gangrel, given the violent and animalistic vibes the boy gave off.

Timothy shook his head and snarled, remember how the boy had called, or rather, helped facilitate the blood hunt that had been called upon Danielle and for that, he was going to take away from him something that could never be replaced - his friend, the bride. With a smile on his lips, he raised his face to the rising moon and let out a soft howl, a signal that was soon copied by his clam members, and the attack was on.


In a flash his piece was up, training in on one of the attackers as they came in through a close window, the general populace screaming as the gun barked once, twice and thrice, the third round putting the attacker on the ground as he spun to acquire a new target. Even in the back of his mind, Tony knew he was going to kill Xander for telling him what really went down after dark, even if it was that he never went anywhere, particularly around Goth individuals, without blessed hollow point rounds. "Damn it, Xander!"

"This isn't my fault!" Harris' own 9mm spat out his own blessed hollow points, but every other round was what appeared to be a regular, unblessed round.

Gibbs' voice rang out over his own barking piece, this one a .40 caliber, "Save it, you two! They're after Abby!" These words chilled Tony to the core and made him focus even as he double-tapped another charging vampire from ten paces out. Even though he had seen it happen, it still struck him as fascinating that when a vampire was hit with a hollow point round that was blessed, he or she screamed in agony and clawed at their face to get it out, where as a normal human would merely drop to the ground, dead as a door nail.

He looked over at Kate as he changed out magazines, blinking as he saw her firing off with a small 9mm, "Kate, where were you hiding that?"

She put one last bullet into one of the crashers, turned and changed out magazines, "Ask me later and I might even show you."

With a smile on his lips, he searched around and when he came to the point where the real action was, his blood ran cold - someone who looked exactly like McGee had Abby by her throat and his fangs were going for her jugular. Without thought, he raised his gun and fired.


Tim looked around muzzily as the world spun on its axis, not to mention it's horizontal - he remembered getting pushed to the side, HARD, and slamming into the alter while Abby screeched about something, but then nothing else. Now, though, as the world stopped spinning, he wished that he had just stayed out - someone who looked just like him had Abby by her throat, about to bite her neck, and then the guy's arm splinters from a gunshot. The man howled and let's Abby go, who stumbled over to Gibbs, and he then sees Abby's two older brothers and her younger brother both advance on the poor sap - her two older brothers, Grant and Jackson, were college football players back in the day and while one, Grant, was now a second grade teacher, Jackson was a fire fighter and neither looked happy as they began to stomp several parts of the guy into a red paste, just as they had told him would happen if he ever hurt Abby. The younger brother, Louis, had stopped only long enough to pick up what had once been part of a chair, and started to wail on his own look-alike with a glee that befit most serial killers.

"Don't kill him!" Enter Harris, the one person here who he was sure knew exactly was going on, "I want answers out of him." Okay, so maybe not all of the answers.

Grant, the grammar school teacher, looked up and, rather innocently, asked, "Can't we at least break his legs?"

Harris sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand while clutching his pistol with the other, "Maybe later, Grant." The big man beamed as Tim found himself being hauled to his feet by Kate and Tony.

"What hit me?"

Tony pointed off to the side to a mewling pile of flesh, "Him, but trust me, we have other things to worry about." Tony looked over at Kate, who was dusting herself off, "Do you think we'll get the security deposits back on these?"

Kate snorted, "We damned well better, or I'm going to be pissed."

A sudden howl of agony caught his attention and Tim found his world spinning again as he snapped his head over to see Harris calmly snapping the other arm of the Tim's own doppelganger with a loose that plainly told him that he was enjoying the act.

"Now, asswipe, why here? Why now?"

"I shall never tell you!"

Harris looked up at Abby's oldest brother, Jackson, "Jackson, his left knee, please."

"Hold it, son," came a voice from behind the small mountain of Jackson. The man moved to reveal a smaller, older version of Abby, sans tattoos, piercings and black hair, and she was furious, "He's mine."

For the briefest moment, Tim felt sorry for the guy … and then that moment passed.

20 minutes later

Xander set the past chair back into place and looked around as the general populace began to be seated again - thankfully, nobody but the Kindred (though nobody but him and Abby knew who they were) had died, Tim had found he needed to knock one back, Abby had needed two and, after dealing with Timothy of Gangrel, whom he thought destroyed but now was sure of being gone, Xander himself had needed one. Abby's mother, Dorothy (as in the Wizard of Oz kind of Dorothy), had done a number on the poor SOB who had the sheer audacity to screw up her daughter's wedding, and in the end it had been not only a mercy staking to paralyze the guy, but even more so to go out to his car, grab the axe he kept there and to behead him. So now, even as he took his place again at the front and in front of the frazzled minister, he looked at Tony again, "Ten will get you twenty things go off without any more hitches."

Tony stuck out his hand, "Deal."

The wedding music began again and Gibbs led the less-frazzled Abby down the isle while Tim's best man, Tony, kept the man present, upright and away from the small flask he had been handed after the attack. Once Abby got there, the minister started his sermon and Gibbs gave her away, as per normal - things went along smoothly and then came the crucial part.

"Abby, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, for better and for poorer, in sickness and in health?"

Abby opened her mouth once, then closed it, opened it again, and then sighed, "No, I can't." There was a gasp among the gathered and, though Tim was facing away from him, Xander knew he had that dumbfounded look on his face, not that he blamed him, "I can't do this, Tim - those guys were after me tonight. I … I need some time to think." That said, she tore out of the room, her mother, Kate and the bride's maids, not to mention Grant, right on her heels while Tim stumbled back, not falling to the floor for Tony's being there.

He looked over at Gibbs, who shrugged, and then sighed, stepping up to where the minister was standing, gaping like a landed fish, "Ah, folks, just keep your seats - we're going to see if we can salvage this wedding." With that said, he too made his way down the isle and towards the bride's area of the building, finding that Abby had locked herself in the room and wasn't letting anyone in.

"Abby! We just want to talk." Kate pleaded with the Goth, but he moved her aside and rapped on the door three times.

"Abs, it's me - open up or I'll open the door for you."

"Go away, Alex! I … I want to be alone right now."

He felt his heart breaking at the sound of the tears in her voice, but he hardened it as he spoke again, "Yeah, well, I want to be so fucking rich I could retire right now, but as that isn't happening, neither is your being alone. Open the door or Grant kicks it down - your call."

For nearly a minute there was nothing from inside of the room, but then the sound of the door clicking open was heard and the door cracked open, revealing half of her face, streaked with tears ad her makeup, "You are a true son of a bitch, Alexander Harris."

Xander nodded, "Like it's said in that fan fiction story you showed me, 'I know I'm a son of a bitch, I like being a son of a bitch - the hours are good and there's very little heavy lifting.'" He pushed open the door and walked in behind her, but Dorothy embraced her daughter tightly, checking her over for several minutes before allowing her up for air, "Abs, is this a case of nerves or what?"

She shook her head, "No, this is the real deal, Alex - I'm not getting married. Those Gangrel came after me tonight, man, and I can't deal with that they'd come after Tim if we got married."

Dorothy and everyone else looked in the dark, "Gangrel? What are you talking about, dear?"

"Look, Abs, if I have to I'll go to them one on one, but trust me, this wasn't about you - it was about me. Remember when you, Willow, Dawn and Faith were at each other's throats?" She nodded, "Guy who was behind that was here, the one your mom was beating the unholy hell out of."

Kate pulls up aside, "Xander, what' the hell is going on?"

"Something I inadvertently got Abby involved in, Kate - something from my past." He'd made it clear, after his suspension, that there were things about his past that he liked to keep to himself and that he would greatly appreciate it if they didn't try and pry - Tony and Gibbs had agreed outright and Kate, while she didn't like it, agreed as well.

"Well it involves Abby now, Harris - what is it?"

He sighed and ran a hand through his semi-gelled hair, "Remember what I told you about when I got off suspension? The thing I proved?" She caught herself from answering and only nodded, "Double that and we're in the ballpark."

Kate blanched and attempted to speak even as Abby tried to explain to her mother and brother what was going on as Xander walked back out to the minister, turned around and sighed as he put his hand in his pocket, fishing around for his money, "Alright, people, it's official - wedding's off." He pulled out a twenty and gave it to Tony, but not before noticing that his money wasn't the only one that was exchanging hands, which was more depressing than he cared to admit.

Next afternoon - Xander's apartment

Gibbs looked at the war zone that was his youngest agent's front room and smiled - he remembered what it was like to be a bachelor and have no one to gripe at him about keeping something clean; while the Corps had helped a great deal, there was a certain level of slovenliness that came with being an unmarried male. "Harris! Front and center!"

He heard someone crash to the ground in what he guessed was the bedroom and curse fluently in Spanish, German and a language that he wasn't sure of, but then smiled as he saw Xander stumbled out of his room, still dressed in the leather pants of his tux, no shirt and he even had on one sock still on, "Gunny? What the f…"

"That's what I want to know, Harris - what the hell were those things that attacked last night? They weren't the normal vampires you showed us about, so what were they?"

Harris scrubbed his hands through his hair for a second and then yawned, "Vampires and normal don't go together, boss, that's an oxymoron, but to answer your question, no, they weren't." He stretched out and blearily dropped to the couch, where the rest of his clothes, sans his missing sock, were, "Different breed, less violent most of the time, but every type has their crazies."

"They ruined Abby's wedding, kid, and her mother bitched at me for nearly three hours after that - it felt like I was back with all three of my ex-wives again." He walked over to what looked like a large wooden tree stump, flipped off the top and grabbed a cold beer from the hidden refrigerator inside, tossing another to Xander before closing it, "What's being done about it?"

Harris opened his beer, chugged about half of it, and then grinned, "It's been taken care of, boss - expect a lot of bikers, brawlers and general night-time hell-raisers to go missing over the next week, and for them not to return."

"Why do I get the feeling that you're in deeper with more people that we know?"

Harris appeared to contemplate this for a moment before answering, "Because you're smarter than most Majors in any branch of the military?"

"Sucking up to me won't get you off of being partnered up with Kate next week, kid - you drew short straw and you get PMS week." It was good having another guy around now - it made for a legitimate chance that either he or Tony could actually have a peaceful week if they got called out.

The kid, for his part, only shrugged, "I had an unhealthy number of female friends in high school and after basic, Gunny - you'd be surprised how many women qualified for the EOD class I took."

Gibbs could only drink his beer - if any of those women got married and the husband cheated, they'd never find the body. "Still, back on subject - who did you call to get this problem taken care of?"

"Mistress Diana - she's calling a friend of hers to take care of it. I owe her a favor now and she assures me that she will collect." Gibbs gave him a look that clearly said that the conversation was not over, but then reached over and grabbed the remote - Tony had leant him the WCC tapes and if Ducky was to be believed, there was a fresh set of matches starting in a few minutes.

The Black Death

"Are you sure they have been eliminated?" Diana listened to the voice on the telephone, the voice of one of her most trusted informants, well, as far as one could trust a member of the Nosforatu clan, "Very good - expect payment by the end of the week." She hung up and looked at her clan as they sat at the table, "The Gangrel clan that attacked Harris and his friend have been eliminated."

"Do they know that we set them up?"

"Of course not, Jean Paul, but on the counterbalance, Harris might suspect something."

The eldest in appearance of their clan, Robert, sat back in his chair and looked into the diamond on the end of his cane, "Why are you continuing to play games with Mister Harris when it is Abigail that you are interested in?"

"Strength in numbers, Robert - while Mister Harris does not have the obvious touch of the artist in him, his powers of deception and creativity can be brought to levels that he never dared dream of as a mortal." She picked up her goblet and tasted the mix of wine and blood within it, "Of course, the Assamites may want him as well, so if the time comes, we'll need to be ready to take our two newest prospects." The rest of the clan raised their goblets and drank to the health of both Abby and Alexander, in hopes of gaining them for themselves one day.

The End