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Playing the Hero

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Black Hair and Gunpowder". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: McGee ponders the appearance of one Xander Harris in Abby's life, and gets a lesson in why chivalry is dead when the Slayers are in town.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
NCIS > Faith-CenteredtigerlilyFR1313,0581228,31130 Aug 0930 Aug 09Yes
A/N: Another installment in the 'Gunpowder-verse', with a slight POV shift. Warning for minor language and major insanity. And much like Abby and Xander, McGee is fairly low on my list of 'characters I'd normally choose to write', but in the spirit of trying new things AND fulfilling the prompt/challenge from Samarkand, (McGee/Faith, front seat of a car) here goes...

Fits sometime in between 'Black Hair and Gunpowder' and 'White Knights and Parrots'.

Disclaimer: NCIS and BtVS belong to Bellisario/CBS and Mutant Enemy respectively. No profit is being made from this story.

Thanks to all those who reviewed the previous two tales. :)




It’s been years since he and Abby were anything more than friends, but Tim McGee can’t help but be jealous when one Xander Harris appears on the scene. And maybe a little nervous, but not in a ‘screams like a girl’ kind of way.

At least until the unmentionable incident with the parrot.

A man can’t be blamed for being a little jumpy around someone who knows people that can turn perfectly good monitors into horrible beady-eyed birds just because a person is doing a little completely justifiable hacking. He really should recommend the ICWS method of anti-hacker deterrence to Agent Fornell sometime, though it would probably lead to him being carted off to the Psych ward at Bethesda.

Magic. Who would believe that?

McGee still finds the occasional feather on his desk, or sometimes jammed into his keyboard or CD drive. He thinks of calling Willow to register his complaint about faulty spellwork, but he suspects the culprit is someone a little closer to home.

At least they’ve gotten past their fascination with superglue – he’s getting tired of smelling like acetone.

Xander Harris is an independent variable to his and Abby’s constant not-quite-relationship experiment, and the result is almost laughably logical, despite the complete breakdown of his science metaphor.

She falls. Hard.

There’s really nothing he can do to stop it. She doesn’t exactly talk about her relationship with him - which is probably because he went all out on the ‘Xander is bad news’ info dump and she’s, understandably, a little annoyed by that. Abby does talk to Tony, who apart from that whole undercover disaster has a fairly bad track record with secrets, or maybe is just taking pity on his subordinate and telling him all the things he doesn’t have the guts to ask.

Tony’s good like that sometimes.

So, yeah, he’s jealous; though he’d rather sit through another three hour Brain Matter concert (while his dribbled from his ears) than admit it to anyone.

And it’s also not because the messy-haired, one-eyed man is even scarier than Ziva. Demon-killer trumps assassin in his book, especially when said demon-killer has a whole army of similar types at his beck and call. Mostly girls, and mostly hot in a dangerous kind of way.

Women, he corrects himself as a long-gone but still indignant voice echoes in his head. Sorry, Kate.

Shit, he’s turning into early!DiNozzo.

Though someone has to fill that gap, because these days Tony is all about the ninja. He wasn’t as concerned as expected when McGee tried (once, and very awkwardly) to bring up his… ahem… friendly concerns about Abby’s new male friend.

“Abby’s a big girl, Mc-Eyepatch-Envy,” he’d said with a shrug. “Plus, Ziva and I met him the same night she did, and while I admit he’s got a certain Jack Sparrow-ness about him; she’s ecstatically happy, even by normal Abby standards.”

Jack Sparrow always came across as a little deranged to McGee, though he can’t fault the pirate’s wry humour in the face of pretty impossible odds, and his uncanny way of talking his way out of the most unbelievable situations. But… well, he tries to overlook the occasional ‘mad as a cut snake’ comment, because he figures that after growing up on a Hellmouth, one can be forgiven for a little crazy.

Then there’s the whole ‘saving the world’ deal, which is about as superior to McGee’s career highpoint of successfully hacking every major government agency (except ICWS, but that incident has been filed under unmentionable and cross-referenced under ‘manly screech’ ) as the original Battlestar Galactica is to the new series.

One of these things is not like the other one.

And he can’t deny that she’s happy, nor can he deny the immutable fact that whatever it was that they once had is long gone.

Trying to regain something he’s not even really sure he wants (other than for the simple reason that someone else has it) is about as futile as trying to get Gibbs to use his email account, or stopping Tony from doing the Tommy Lee Jones speech when they get word of a fugitive.

Besides, he misses her, and despite his efforts he’ll never break into the Tony and Ziva Club (and he’s not sure for the sake of his manhood that he wants to). It’s always a risk talking to Ducky because you never know when you’ll get insight and when you’ll be left scratching your head and wondering whether the medical examiner’s story had a point… or whether he just wanted you out of Autopsy.

Palmer’s spending a lot of time out of the morgue lately, and scuttlebutt says he’s ‘seeing’ one of the girls (women) from Accounting. And that particular revelation makes McGee look closely at the rails of the elevator before he leans against them, because after the last time Palmer was having freaky sex with someone on the NCIS payroll, a man can’t be too careful where he puts his hands.

It doesn’t even cross his mind to try befriending Gibbs, though he sometimes wonders what it would be like to build a boat. He contemplated asking his Boss once, but lost his nerve and Googled it instead.

Somehow it didn’t live up to his expectations, even if video streaming has come on in leaps and bounds the last few years.

So he makes the effort to be friendly to Harris, and despite some initial stumbling blocks they eventually bond – mostly over Tim being a computer geek and Harris having grown up with a computer geek (some of that stuff creeps into your mind and latches on, like having a Goa’uld in your brain that’s fluent in 1337). He’d love to pick Willow’s brain someday, though from what Xander says she’s less about computers and more about magic these days.

Still… symbiotes are stubborn little beasts, and Abby’s less likely to hang around after hours and talk geek with him now that she’s got… how did Buffy put it? An elsewhere to be.

Willow remains one of the only members of the ICWS core team that they haven’t met or drank with or had show up in the office on some kind of business. Which seems to be booming, if the number of times he’s seen Buffy or Xander stride out of the elevator lately are any indication.

A little jealous voice inside him says that maybe Xander’s fabricating attacks on Naval personnel in order to spend time with Abby, but almost in the same breath he’s horrified at himself. It’s like the times when they’re sitting bored in the bullpen and he’s watching Tony and Ziva have an electrically-charged conversation just using their eyes, and he catches himself wishing someone would just hurry up and die so they could catch a case already.

As long as he doesn’t say it aloud, nobody needs to know how wrong his thoughts are sometimes, right?

A drawling, smoky voice interrupts his internal monologue. “Hey Maggie. Xander sent me out to find out if you’re plannin’ on joining us inside anytime this century?” Faith grins lazily through the half-open window at him, all doe-eyed and wild haired. McGee blinks in surprise and chooses to ignore the nickname.

You just don’t correct a Vampire Slayer, especially not one who wears her ‘don’t mess with me’ attitude like a heavy cloak. Once upon a time, he would have been petrified, but his time working with Ziva (the original deadly female though by no means the last) has cured him of his fear in the face of strong women. Well, mostly.

“Uh… I… yes?”

Though at the expense of his ability to string together a basic sentence when faced with said women, it seems.

Faith’s attention turns from him to a point somewhere beyond the car so fast she almost loses her head retracting it from his window, though it’s almost a full six seconds before Tim hears anything out of the ordinary. The slayer package comes complete with super-strength, unbelievable hearing and an uncanny attraction to all things demonic.

She’s the only slayer he’s met so far that has the ability to make even the simplest phrase sound like it’s dripping with sexual undertones, but it’s probably less of a Slayer thing and more about being incredibly, stammer-inducingly hot and knowing it.

The leather pants certainly aren’t doing anything for his ability to think coherently other than in some odd mixture of squeaks and the odd geek reference apropos of nothing. So much for conquering his ‘intimidating female’ fear.

Faith leans down and narrows her eyes at him. “Sit tight, Maggie. I’ll be back in a sec,” and she’s gone before he registers her words, heading into a dark patch of bushes surrounding the parking lot of the bar.

He’s a highly trained, armed Federal Agent, well used to functioning in stressful and sometimes life-threatening situations, and above all he was taught to be a gentleman and protect a lady’s honour and dignity. And he's {thisclose} to needing a new pair of pants.

There’s really nothing honourable or dignified about the way Faith’s currently whaling on a couple of what Tim assumes are vampires, but he eases himself out of the car and starts toward them anyway, cursing his mother’s 19th century sense of courage and valour.

As he nears the scuffle, he blinks and then a grin spreads across his face. It might be a reaction to the blinding fear that’s creeping over him, or maybe just a byproduct of the insanity that prompted him to leave the relative safety of his car, but he can’t help but bite back a laugh.

Faith, scary female Xena type and vampire slayer, is singing under her breath as she trades blows with three hulking vampires. Well, singing is probably too strong a term, but whatever she’s doing she looks like she’s having the time of her life.

“You gotta fight,” two quick uppercuts and a stunning right hook to a jaw. “For your right,” with a neat backflip that catches a vamp in the chest on her way around and sends them tumbling like dominos and damn, she makes Ziva look like a clumsy circus clown trying to play-fight, “to paaaaaarty…”

Faith feints and lunges as if she’s dancing to her very own rhythm, and a body explodes in a shower of dust. One down, two to go.

Wait. Did she dust two in one hit, or did the other one suddenly just…

McGee keeps grinning right up until a tree trunk wraps itself around his neck and squeezes, sending stars skyrocketing through his vision. Copper-scented breath rushes past his ear in a hot sickening blast and even if he wanted to scream (which he really, really does and not at all in a manly way) his vocal cords are being crushed and all he can do is rasp air through the compressed space in his chest and flail.

There’s a lot less competent fighting and a lot more flailing than he ever imagined. Jet Li he is not.

“That your friend?” the missing vampire says in his ear, licking his neck wetly like a food critic testing the initial flavours of a new dish. Oddly, McGee can’t help think of Ziva licking Tony during that long-ago sexual harassment seminar.

This is definitely red-light behaviour.

He shakes his head ‘no’, because Faith’s not really a friend in the literal sense. More of an object of many fantasies.

He feels rather than sees the shrug, and the monster’s grip loosens slightly. For a dizzy disbelieving minute McGee thinks he’s being set free, and then the steel arm draws him back in like a fish given the false hope of freedom from the hook.

“Too bad,” the vampire says in a throaty lisp (do not think about fangs do not think about fangs oh sweet jesus I’m going to die with dirty images of leather-pants-wearing Slayers in my head and that’s a sure ticket to hell). “I like an audience.”

“I don’t,” an unmistakeable voice says from behind him. “This’s a private party, boys.” McGee didn’t even see her move, but that might have something to do with his eyes being squeezed shut in terror. “The only invite you’re getting is to the Butt-Ugly Ball, and I hear it’s BYO brimstone this year. Don’t wanna be late.”

McGee doesn’t hear the stake penetrate but suddenly he’s choking on foul-tasting dust and trying not to run screaming on legs that he’s pretty sure won’t hold him up longer than about three steps anyway.

Before he has the chance to thank Faith for saving his life, she rounds on him with flashing eyes, grabbing his arm angrily and half-dragging him back toward his car. “What kind of idiot are you, Maggie? Sit tight means keep your ass locked in the car, not charge out to rescue the helpless little girl like some fuckin’ knight in shining armour!”

This kind of verbal abuse deserves a witty and suitably cutting reply.

“I… you… it…”

Or, y’know… mindless stammering.

Faith swears under her breath but keeps him upright nonetheless. She waves a careless hand at someone who’s poked their head out the door of the bar and the head bobs once and then retracts. It’s too far away for McGee to see who it was, though judging by the lack of height he’s guessing it was Buffy.

It starts to sink in mere seconds later, how close he came to being another reason for Xander to come charging out of the elevator. “I need to sit down,” he says faintly, and Faith half shoves him into the passenger seat of the car but keeps one hand on his head so he won’t smack it on the door frame.

The gesture is oddly tender amongst all the brash forcefulness, as though she’s conflicted about whether she wants to hurt him or pat him on the head like a good little doggie.

“You’re either seriously stupid, or wicked brave,” Faith says with grudging admiration, and he’s can’t remember if he’s ever been called brave before (much less by someone who pretty much defines the term) but it’s a pretty good feeling, even if she still looks like she’s contemplating violence.

Gibbs is going to smack him upside the head five ways from Sunday when he hears about this.

“Sorry,” he says idiotically. Sorry for what? Almost getting eaten by a disgusting undead creature of the night that he thought only existed in Anne Rice’s twisted mind?

Faith’s looking at him expectantly. “Huh?” he says with the sneaking suspicion he’s missed something important. She sighs and rolls her eyes, then looks at him appraisingly. It might be the shock talking, but he could swear he sees a glimmer of something so inherently wicked it would send his mother running to church to pray for his soul.

“I said, ‘m not really in the mood for happy times with the gang. You wanna blow this popsicle stand?”

He’s been known to be a little slow on the uptake, so it’s probably a good thing Faith’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. “Jesus,” he says, more of an exhale of surprise than a curse.

Her gaze darkens for a split second before the storm passes, leaving him blinking and wondering if he imagined it. “Don’t much like preacher types,” she says without quite looking him in the eye, “but hey, everyone’s got their little kinks. ”

Holy mother of fuck he wants to find out what that means.

He’s thinking of writing a book about the demon world and the people who fight in it , but is a little nervous of the consequences given what happened to his computer. If the penalty for a minor hacking incident is turning his computer into a giant screeching bird, basing fictional characters on real-life demon hunters might end in him losing a hand.

Maybe an eye.

He wonders why, if ICWS have all-powerful witches at their beck and call, why someone didn’t just make a magical eye for Xander a la Alastor Moody. Maybe without the ability to see through clothes and wood and other things, because it’s bad enough to think of Xander seeing Abby naked, let alone the rest of them.

Besides, nobody would ever believe him anyway, and he’s pretty sure his publisher would just laugh and ask him if he’s been smoking the contents of the NCIS evidence locker.

“Y’know,” Faith says as she extracts the keys from his pocket with deft wandering fingers that dig a little deeper than necessary or decent (though McGee can’t bring himself to care about a little indecency), “when I was younger, all the other kids on my block were crazy for the old Superman comics someone’s Dad found in his shed.”

The engine rumbles to life with a growl that matches the roar of disbelief in McGee’s head. Faith shoots an unreadable sideways glance at him and continues, with the faintest hint of shyness colouring her throaty purring tone.

“So… they’re all runnin’ round the block with pillowcases tied round their necks and Underoos on over their holey jeans like complete nutcases, wanting to be the Man of Steel…” This time, there’s no mistaking the meaningful heat in her gaze, a promise of things to come or at the very least some quality fuel for his late night fantasies.

McGee doesn’t want to speak just in case it breaks the spell and she turns into a parrot or something, so he just stammers out something that could be agreement or it could be consent or it might just be ‘take me now.’

“Me, I always had a soft spot for the Jimmy Olsen types,” she says with pursed wet lips and fiery shining eyes, and Tim’s really really glad the roar of the engine covers his strangled gasp.

He’ll have to ask Abby where to sign up for membership of the Xander Harris fan club, if he survives the night.



Reviews/comments very much appreciated, as always.

The End

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