AN: Brief reminder for anyone who has forgotten: FLETC stands for Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
"Good luck, Private Sandford."
"Thanks for all your help Agent DiNozzo; Agent Harris."
The young marine grabbed the small bag of belongings he'd gathered whilst in hospital and headed into the barracks. Tony leaned against the drivers side of the car.
"Think he'll be alright?"
Xander shrugged. "Shrink seems to think so. And he seemed alright to me."
Tony nodded and got into the car. Xander climbed in beside him, reaching to turn the radio on for the trip back. The news headlines were just starting.
"In breaking news, popular Senator Oliver Fox has shocked his fellow party members by announcing his resignation today, more than eighteen months before his seat would next be up for re-election. In a statement to the media this morning, he advised the decision had been made for 'personal reasons' and declined to give any further details.
"Wow, Senator Fox?" commented Tony. "That's a shame. He seemed like such a cool guy, for a politician."
Xander made a non-committal 'hmm' sound.
"In other news, police spokesman Andy Narwee confirmed that Washington D.C.'s recent spate of violent crimes seems to have ended on the weekend, with the number of incidents dropping significantly since Sunday night. However, he admitted that the police were still at a loss to explain why there was such a huge surge in unrelated violent-
Tony reached over and switched the station to one playing music.
"We hear enough about that stuff at work," he told Xander, half-apologising. Xander shrugged and turned to watch the passing streets.
Both Buffy and Angel's teams had stayed around for the end of the week, as promised. Once the sun rose on Monday it was as though the whole demon world was holding it's breath, waiting to see if the prophecy would come true... but nothing happened. Nothing anyone could tell, in any case. Angel repeated his belief that the prophecy might not have been real, let alone translated correctly. Everyone begrudgingly agreed.
Angel, Spike and Illyria had headed home as soon as the sun set that evening, Spike still complaining about bloody money-grabbing prophecy translators.
Xander had invited Willow and Buffy around to his place on Monday night, and they'd had the promised pizza and movie night. Giles had been invited too, but he declined, choosing to accompany the younger Slayers on the flight home instead.
The three of them had a great time, though none of them could have told you what the movie was about. They stayed up most of the night talking about anything and everything -it was just like old times, Xander thought, smiling to himself. Buffy had told him stories about the demons they'd encountered and the trials and tribulations of schooling and training the new Slayers. Willow had proudly told him about her own students. He'd told them all about his work with NCIS and how much he liked it. All of this had been done by email now and then over the last few years, but it was so much better when they were sitting in the same room, digging big spoonfuls of Belgian Chocolate Ice Cream out of the same tub.
By the time they left he had convinced them he was happy and settled. The emotional farewell had been tempered by the promise that he would visit them when he could. The girls had gone straight to the airport to catch their flight home, whilst Xander went back to bed for just a couple of hours sleep. It was worth putting up with DiNozzo's teasing and Gibbs' disapproving glares when he arrived at work looking exhausted the next day.
That had been yesterday. Today, just a week after the dramatic rescue, the fourth of the six marines was released from hospital, and Tony and Xander had driven him back to base. Since he'd been cleared by the psychiatrists at Bethesda, Private Sandford was going to be rejoining his unit immediately.
A few minutes later, Xander followed Tony out of the lift into the bullpen.
"McGeek!" Tony exclaimed. "Who let you out of the dungeon?"
Xander looked up. Tim was standing in the bullpen, with a cardboard box in his arms. Another box sat on Xander's desk chair. Xander got a sinking feeling.
"Hey Tony, Xander," he greeted them. "I was just, uh..."
"McGee is rejoining our team," Ziva announced, clearly pleased by the news. She smiled happily across the bullpen.
McGee cleared his throat. "Yeah, Winters is back and I'm not needed down in Cyber anymore, so I've been moved back up here, and..." he trailed off again, looking guiltily at Xander.
Xander smiled at McGee, trying to reassure him. It wasn't McGee's fault, after all. They'd known all along that this was going to happen -it was just a matter of when.
"Well, we know what happens next!" Tony announced. "Gibbs will write a report on how great Xander is, and recommend that Vance keeps him on. Right, Boss? Or, you know what, if you'd like I can write the report and you can just sign off on it. Because I know you're so busy and all."
"No need, DiNozzo, report's already been handed over." Gibbs finally looked up at them, his gaze settling on Xander. "Harris, the Director will see you in his office."
Xander nodded and put his gear down at his/McGee's desk then headed for the stairs. He felt like he was wading through a thick syrup, each step taking a huge effort. He hoped it looked like he was walking normally. Ironically, if someone had asked him a month ago, he'd have said there was no doubt about his future at NCIS. If Buffy and Willow had asked two days ago, he'd have told them that Gibbs' report would of course
be positive, and Vance would naturally assign him to another team. But now that the moment had arrived, he wasn't certain any more. Gibbs had glared at him all day yesterday after turning up to work with barely any sleep. He still hadn't answered a lot of his boss's questions about the demon world and his own experiences. And God knows he'd made his fair share of mistakes in his time on the team. Getting wounded seemed to be his specialty.
And Gibbs hadn't given anything away. He had frowned as he told Harris to see the Director, but was it just his normal frown, or was it a reflection of what was going to happen when Xander got there?
Or here, rather, since Xander now found himself at the Director's office. He stepped inside and nodded to the secretary, who smiled at him.
"Just a moment," she said, reaching for the intercom. "Director? Agent Harris is here to see you."
"Send him in," came Vance's response.
Xander entered and moved to stand in front of Vance's desk. He felt almost as nervous as the last time he'd been standing here, on his first day at NCIS. Like last time, Vance was flicking through the papers in a folder, but this time it contained Xander's personnel file and Gibbs' report.
"Just been reading this report Gibbs sent up. Though I don't need to read it to know what Gibbs thinks of you as an agent."
Xander wasn't sure what to say to that. Thankfully, Vance grinned around his toothpick and continued.
"If Gibbs didn't like you, he'd have been up here harassing me every other day. Since he hasn't done that, we can safely assume that you fitted into the team and made yourself useful."
Xander was relieved. "Uh, thank you sir."
"Don't thank me, it's all your own doing. Most new agents don't last this long with Gibbs," Vance drawled, still grinning. "You've earned this, Harris."
Vance handed Xander an envelope, and at the Director's nod, he opened it. It contained a formal letter offering him a permanent position with NCIS on the condition of completing certain training programs at FLETC. The second page listed which programs they were.
"We've booked your place in the courses listed there. You'll be attending FLETC in Georgia for about a month. When you get back, we'll see which team could use a bit of help."
Xander didn't know what to say. Vance took his silence to mean something else.
"Unless you'd rather not take the offer, Harris. Nobody would blame you if preferred to find work elsewhere."
Xander found his voice. "No! No, I mean, I definitely want to stay. Here. At NCIS."
Vance leaned back in his chair, a smug grin showing. "Then it's settled. See you in a month, Agent Harris."
Xander nodded in acknowledgement as he backed away and left the office. He headed back down the stairs, staring at the papers in his hands. He got to the bullpen before he looked up, where he found Abby was now sitting on the edge of his -McGee's
-desk. Everyone was looking at him expectantly. Except Gibbs.
"Well?" Abby demanded. She crossed the bullpen to grab Xander's shoulders. "Don't keep us in suspense Xander! Gibbs won't tell us what he wrote in his report, so we don't... please tell me they're not sending you away?" she begged.
"I'm going to Georgia," he told her.
Abby's face fell, but beside them Tony grinned and clapped Xander on the shoulder. "Congrats Harris. We'll make a real Agent out of you yet."
"Huh?" asked Abby.
"They're sending me to FLETC, in Georgia. I'll be back in a month as a permanent NCIS Agent," Xander grinned.
Abby threw her arms around him, nearly knocking him over. Xander laughed as McGee and Ziva came over to offer their congratulations too. Tony grabbed the letter out of Xander's hand and read out the names of the short courses Xander was scheduled to do, and complained aloud that he had never gotten to go to any of these. Xander caught Gibbs' eye through the huddle, and the Boss gave him a single, approving nod.
That evening, Xander let himself into Gibbs' house and headed for the kitchen. He took two beers from the six-pack and put the rest away in the fridge, then followed the light coming from under the basement door. Gibbs was working on the boat. Xander jogged noisily down the stairs, opened the beers, and handed one to Gibbs. Gibbs took a swig, then placed it on the boat beside him and kept working. Xander found himself some sandpaper and another place on the boat to work.
After a few minutes of working silently together, Xander cleared his throat.
"So, for me, all of this started in high school. It was the beginning of sophomore year, and there was a new girl at school. Her name was Buffy..."
Frak whistled cheerfully to himself as he walked to the next office building on his cleaning schedule. It was getting late, and there were few other pedestrians still in the business district. He absently played with a coin in his coat pocket, flipping it around and rubbing the smooth surface.
He saw a woman in a business suit who was rummaging through her handbag. He could hear her sniffling and as he passed she pulled out a tissue and blew her nose.Poor thing
, Frak thought. Hope that cold clears up quickly
. He continued on down the street.
Behind him, the woman paused as her headache suddenly lifted. She sniffed, then took another deep breath through her nose. She smiled, tucked the tissue into her pocket, and walked away.
Frak pulled out the shiny coin from his pocket and examined it again. A 'Lucky Coin', his grandmother had written. She'd sent it along in a box of trinkets found in the attic. She didn't know where half the items had come from or who their previous owners had been, but she had picked out any she thought Frak would like. The parcel had arrived with Monday's mail, and Frak had immediately started carrying the coin everywhere. It felt nice and comfortable in his hand, and hey, who knows right? Maybe it really would bring him luck.
He reached the next building and cheerfully waved to the security guard on duty in the lobby.
"Hey Dan, how's it going?"
Dan grinned back. "Been quiet tonight Frank, not many left in the building to disturb you."
"Ah, it never bothers me, you know," Frak replied. "But why are you on night shift again? Thought you were up for some time off?"
"Aw, yeah," Dan said, scratching his head. "But Ben's kid is sick and Jason quit last week so we're a bit short-handed."
Frak shook his head. "Hope your boss rewards you properly, don't know what they'd do without you, you know? You deserve a pay rise or something."
Dan laughed. "That'd be nice, for sure. Hey listen, you should head up to Matt Green's office before you start your rounds tonight, he said he wanted to see you about something."
Frak glanced towards the elevator. "He still in?"
"Yeah, you know he likes to work late." Dan's cell phone rang, and he checked the screen. "That's the boss calling -see you later Frank."
The elevator was waiting at ground floor, so Frak stepped in immediately.
In the lobby, Dan grinned in delight as his boss advised him that a pay rise would be coming his way as thanks for all the extra work he'd put in lately.
On the other side of the world, there was a dusty old book in the Council's slowly growing library entitled 'The Vexta Book of Magical Items'. Should anyone have thought to look it up, they would have found an entry as follows:Pifaki Lucky Coins
Once almost commonplace, these coins are now rare and are the last remaining remnants
of a lost society. Legends and tales tell us the Pifaki people were known for their generous
spirits and kind deeds. These coins are a prime example. Their primary function was to
grant any wishes or desires the owner has for the benefit of others. The secondary
function is to bring luck to the owner. The more frequently the owner makes wishes for
others' benefit, the more luck the coin will bring to him.
Frak was oblivious to this information. He reached the seventh floor and headed for Matt Green's office as instructed. He knocked and entered.
"Frak, good to see you," the vampire said. "I just wanted to let you know, things with the business haven't been too good lately, and if they don't improve soon I'm probably going to have cut down how many nights a week you come in and clean for us. I don't want to, you understand, but I need to keep an eye on our costs until business picks back up."
"No, no, Mr Green, I understand, you know," Frak reassured him. "You just say when, and I'll just come in three nights a week instead." Privately, he hoped business did pick up. Matt Green might be a vampire, and a soulless one at that, but he had a good head for business and certainly put in more hours than most others. He deserved to do well.
"Thanks Frak, you're a champion," Green said. "Tell you what, as a consolation you can grab a scratch card on your way out."
An email alert chimed on Green's computer as Frak left the office. Green skimmed the email before punching a fist into the air in victory. Not only had a client accepted his proposal, they wanted him to take on another project for them as well. It was in a different area to Green's main expertise, but it could lead to some interesting opportunities. Maybe he could stop worrying about the budget after all.
Frak paused at the receptionist's empty desk on his way out, and reached into the large glass fish bowl. He knew Green kept a bunch of $1 and $2 scratch cards there to offer to clients -it was a bit different and a bit of fun which left a final good impression after what could be a boring business meeting. He pulled out a $1 'Patriot Cash' Scratcher. He chuckled to himself as he scratched it, but stopped when he realised he'd won. In fact, he'd won the $1000 top prize. He was stunned for a moment, and re-read the instructions twice just to make sure.
He chuckled to himself again before shoving the card in his pocket. His hand bumped against the coin, and he pulled it out to look at it again. Maybe it was lucky after all, he thought. He put it away again and headed down to the cleaning supplies closet, whistling as he went.
AN: And that's it, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you so so much to everyone who has reviewed, tracked or simply read this story! The response has been overwhelming to say the least. I very much hope you've enjoyed the ending as much as the rest.Sorry to those who were hoping it would continue on forever -unfortunately I need projects that have beginnings, middles and ends. I knew where this story was going to end before I started posting it. I've also been working on it since mid-February, which already makes it one of the longest-term writing projects I've done in a long time. And for now at least, there's no sign of a sequel. Should the inspiration hit, then sure, but I don't think it's likely.This is also the first time I've ever written Buffy or Angel fanfic, crossover or otherwise. I've written in a few other fandoms, including a couple of NCIS fics. If you're interested, they're on fanfiction dot net, under the same username.Thanks again to all of you -I'm not sure I would have ever finished this if I didn't know how many people were out there waiting for it!~Laimelde~