Changes and Choices

Disclaimer: I do not own "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," or "NCIS."

A/N: This story is a crossover between "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," and "NCIS." It takes place seven years after "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" ends and, obviously, six years after "Angel" ends. This story ignores the comics. For "NCIS," it is somewhat AU and takes place about a year or so after Jenny Shepherd died.

Chapter 1

New Life

Gibbs strode into Leon Vance's antechamber as if he owned the place. He was angry about FBI interference on his latest case … or something.

To be honest, Ellie, Vance's secretary, did not care what Special Agent Gibbs was angry about. "You can't go in there," Ellie said evenly. "He's on a conference call."

Gibbs made to ignore Ellie, but she was standing between him and the office door in a flash. "I said: You can't go in there. Not now. But feel free to wait."

Back when Cynthia had still been the director's secretary—Jenny's at that time—Gibbs would have just gone around her and flung open the director's doors anyway. But not now. Ellie stood blocking his way with her arms folded across her chest and one foot tapping in irritation. Her blond hair was in a no-nonsense ponytail and her green eyes fixed him to the spot. She even made her short stature seem imposing; Gibbs felt very small when she glared at him.

This was one of the reasons Vance had kept her after Jenny had died; she was one of the only people who could control Gibbs. If people knew what was good for them, they did not cross Elizabeth Dinozzo.

Gibbs maintained their staring contest for another thirty seconds before sighing and taking a seat. Ellie sat herself back down behind her desk and grinned at Gibbs. Although he glared back, she knew he was not angry with her. Gibbs liked her; the whole team liked her. When she had first taken over the secretary role from Cynthia, they had been very hostile to her, seeing her as an irritating pencil-pusher whose job was to place stumbling blocks in front of them. Later they had realized that she could make things happen, make certain files appear across the director's desk and so on; being nice to Ellie was good for one's job and one's health.

Ellie could not deny that at times she missed the physicality of being the Slayer. While she enjoyed aspects of her job as the director's secretary, she sometimes felt pent up. She would lean over the railing and look down into the bullpen, watching her husband, Tony, and his team horsing around. Sometimes she missed doing that with her own team.

But she had given up being the Slayer. She had given up being the one to whom everyone looks. She had finally accomplished what she had striven for all throughout high school—she was finally a normal girl. She had a good job that did not require her skills as the Slayer. She had a sweet and caring, if somewhat immature, husband. She had good friends, namely Ziva and Abby. What more could she really want?

Becoming Ellie had not been easy. When she had been Buffy she had become accustomed to always having things her way and now she was just a little girl that no one really listened to. Sure, she could stare Gibbs down, but when it came to really important things, he would just ignore her. He once actually picked her up off her feet and placed her to the side so he could stride into the director's office. She had been so angry, but, biting down her Slayer instincts, had gone to her husband instead of seeking retribution herself. They had glued Gibbs' phone down, resulting in a head-slap for Tony and a wry expression for Ellie.

After Sunnydale became a sinkhole, Buffy had initially followed the Scoobies. They went to Los Angeles, got patched up, and then bought tickets for England. That was when Buffy finally had had enough. They kept rushing her to go there, do this. She needed time and space and they just weren't giving it to her. They didn't understand that she just wasn't all gung-ho about going to England and setting up the new Council.

She backed out, told them she wasn't going with them, and they were so angry. She could remember it like it was yesterday.

"What do you mean you aren't coming?" Willow had asked, completely panicking.

"I'm done," Buffy had responded, shrugging. "I am just too tired to keep doing this. I've been the Slayer for seven long years. I can't keep this up. I'm done."

"But what about us?" Dawn had asked, fat tears already spilling from her eyes.

"What about you?" Buffy had repeated calmly, her voice lacking the venom that her retort could have had. She had just sounded tired … tired and resigned. She didn't want to hurt the Scoobies; enough people had been hurt already. "You guys kicked me out. Not the other way around. You made it very clear that you didn't need me."

"But we do need you!" Dawn had cried. Then, lowering her voice, she had said, "We love you."

"I love you too, Dawn. But I can't keep doing this. I pulled it together for the battle against the First, but I can't keep being your punching bag. I need to take time for myself. I need to reevaluate who I am. I worked with you guys for the battle and I made nice, but I can't keep working with you now. It was an emergency situation then. I couldn't turn my back on the girls." Buffy had taken a deep breath and then had continued: "But now that it's over, I can turn my back on you."

"What does that mean?" Xander had snapped, all bluster, a real tempest in a teapot.

Before Buffy could even begin to construe a response, Faith had jumped in. "It means she's done, yo," Faith had defended. "Just leave her alone."

Xander had made to say something more, but Faith had placed herself between Xander and Buffy, literally, and said "drop it" in a low, dangerous voice. Buffy nodded once to Faith to thank her.

And with that, Buffy had just walked away.

She had not contacted any of the Scoobies since then and she found that, as time went on, she missed them less and less.

Directly after walking away, Buffy remembered how difficult it was just to start over. She had tried it when she was seventeen and she had known she had to try it again now. But she couldn't do it alone. Not again. Without making a conscious plan, Buffy had let her feet guide her and, before she had even registered where she was going, she had been standing outside Wolfram & Hart.

She had wandered around the building, somewhat aimlessly, until she found herself outside of Angel's new office. After taking a deep breath, Buffy had walked inside, nervous, her heart doing a frantic samba, her stomach almost upset.

Angel had been glad to see her. He was always glad to see her. He had asked how her baking was going and she had just laughed, given him a noncommittal guffaw that had told him to back off. Angel had smilingly—since when did he smile?—retreated.

He had not been smiling by the end of their conversation though. Buffy had wanted out. Angel had understood that and he had wanted to help her, greatly. He had been worried for her though. Although he had been in a hell dimension the last time Buffy had run away, he knew all about it, all about the dinghy apartment, all about the crap waitressing job, all about the depression. He had not wanted for her to go back to that. That was why he had done all he could to help her; he had put the complete resources of the newly acquired Wolfram & Hart to work.

He had provided her with a new name—Elizabeth Anne Merrick—and gotten the dean of a DC college to admit her. Buffy—now going by Ellie—had graduated with honors at 25, receiving a bachelor's degree in Art History, or what Angel called "a useless degree." Ellie had thought that, as an artist himself, Angel would have been able to appreciate her major, but he had merely countered that, in the old days, everyone of class knew about art and studied something else to be useful. She had argued that, "in the old days," she would not have been educated in anything, would have been married off, and would have been a young mother.

Although she had cut off all contact with the Scoobies with the help of some Wolfram & Hart magical anti-tracking equipment, she had maintained her contact with Angel and his group—at least at first. She had been outraged on Angel's behalf at how the Council had treated him during the Dana situation and she had been amused to hear from him that the Council had transformed one of the Slayers to look like her, to keep everyone calm. How could her old friends stay in power if people thought they were powerless to control their greatest weapon?

Although Ellie considered Angel to be her greatest friend, she had not seen him in six years, not since Angel had brought down Wolfram & Hart. Buffy had flown in, glad to see Angel, Wesley, and the others. Even Spike. She had arrived near the end of the battle; Wesley and Gunn were already dead. Spike died not long afterward. Angel would have died had Faith not arrived when she did. Faith was the only one from the new Council who came. Buffy was almost more furious at their betrayal of Angel and Wesley than at their betrayal of her. The Scoobies had definitely been in a bad place when they had stomped on her heart and kicked her out of her own house; what was their excuse with Angel? Things were going well for them—they just did not care enough.

By the end of the battle, Angel was injured but alive and Illyria was following him around like a little puppy dog. Faith and Ellie were exhausted, but no worse for the wear. The four of them had gotten spectacularly drunk together and dealt with the funeral arrangements together. It was peaceful, homey. They kept the grief from overpowering each other and they shared anecdotes. Also, Illyria drunk was quite the humorous sight. Despite the pain, the healing had already begun. Less than a week later, Faith had gone back to the Council, where she did not talk about the events of Los Angeles, and Ellie had gone back to DC.

She had joined NCIS right after earning her bachelor's degree, filling in for Cynthia, who was on maternity leave. Jenny Shepherd had liked her and gave her the job permanently when Cynthia left to spend more time with her baby. She had met Tony soon after. At first she thought he was a real piece of work. Every time she saw him, she could not help but roll her eyes. He was ridiculous. She had seen suave men before, and Tony Dinozzo—in her opinion—left something to be desired.

But he had been persistent. Tony could not understand how Jenny's new secretary was ignoring his charm. He considered his charm to be his greatest attribute, with a close second being his fanatical knowledge of film.

Ellie had eventually broken down and things moved quickly after that. Plain and simple, they loved each other. Ellie had experienced "true love" before and grown tired with the classification. She would never call what they had "true love." But it was love and that was enough for her. Tony never called their relationship "true love" either—he often just called it "Bogey and Bacall."

Ellie was now comfortable in her life. She was twenty-nine, had been married for two years, and was Leon Vance's personal secretary. Slaying was in her past. She had not so much as patrolled in three years. She worried about normal, mundane things. What should they eat for dinner that night: Chinese or Italian (as neither of them could cook)? Should they have kids or wait another year to revisit the issue? She finally had the life she had always claimed she wanted as a teenager. She was normal.

~ x ~ x ~ x ~

Across town, in DC's warehouse district, a young woman ran as fast as she could. The chain still around her right ankle was slowing her down greatly, but she knew she could not give up. Soon those monsters would catch up with her. She had to keep moving. She gasped as she heard a terrible noise—it sounded like twisting, screaming metal and the laughs of hyenas. She began to cry harder and run faster.

She heard the noise again and looked back to see how many were behind her … when she ran into something solid. She felt the monster's strong arms wrap around her, pressing her chest to its broad, barrel chest. She tried to escape but it was too strong. It dragged her back to the center of the warehouse while its cohorts crowded around.

She screamed as the knife plunged into her abdomen, freeing her blood to pool in the center of the pentagram as the creatures around her chanted.

x TBC x

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