Nothing is True. Everything is Connected.
Sylum Advent 2020: December 25th

Sylum Advent 2020: December 25th


I can hear the squees from here.

Happy Holidays! Even though this year went to shit and so much didn’t get done – I figured to give you at least the rework of the first chapter of Family.

Please at the moment do not ask when will the rest be finished.

Enjoy.

Prologue: Las Vegas – November 2005

Warrick made sure to arrive at work early.

He knew what was going to happen, and he wasn’t going to miss it for the world.

For the past six weeks, he’d been playing the role of lonely Mate, having heart to heart talks with those who would listen, wondering if he should just quit and go back to New Orleans.

He deserved a damn Oscar for his performance.

He deserved Sainthood for not killing the bitch.

After everything that had transpired with Turning Alistair, Warrick had walked back into their rooms, only to stop at the couches, and stare at so unexpected a guest.

For his part, Nico simply sat in casual pose, as though what was happening fell into the category of ‘everyday occurrence’, and there was nothing weird about any of it.

Warrick waved his hands at Dorian Grey, only to pause when Pearly popped in, grabbed the guy, and popped out again. “That is never not going to be strange.” He looked at his Mate, and gestured to where Dorian had been sitting. “Explain?”

“I told Alistair I had someone on the inside.”

“But, Dorian Grey!” Warrick walked over to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of rum and two glasses before taking Dorian’s seat on the couch. Pouring them each a glass, he pushed one across the coffee table. “Again. Explain.”

“It’s a long story, and very complicated. But needless to say, Dorian isn’t stupid and does what’s good for Dorian. Working with me is good for him, especially as he doesn’t trust Imenand. According to him, I at least honor my promises.” Nico reached over and grabbed the drink.

“And what are these promises?” Warrick was incredibly turned on by the power Nico displayed. Though he’d always known his Mate could play politics with the big guys, he usually chose to stay out of the drama.

Nico gave him a long, appreciative look. “Even you know the story of Dorian Grey.”

Warrick downed his drink, contemplated pouring another, but decided to swig straight from the bottle instead. “You have his painting.”

“Not at the moment. Imenand has it, and has been blackmailing Dorian with it for the past century. I promised him I would get it, and keep it safe. Well, once Neal gets his ass out of jail.”

“I’m taking it, Imenand doesn’t know you’re working with Dorrian? And how do you plan on finding the thing?” Warrick passed the bottle to his Mate, who gave him a wicked grin before taking a hefty glug at it.

“I’m sure Sherlock would love such a challenge.”

“I really really want you to fuck me right now.”

Nico winked at him, and set the bottle down. “Oh, I’m going to, but we need to discuss our next play.”

Warrick leaned back in his seat, completely attentive but not hiding his arousal.

“Pirate.” Sylum’s Clan Leader shook his head, making both of them laugh lightly. “I need you to go back to work and put on the performance of a lifetime. So much has happened in New Orleans, it’s going to take years to recover, and with the attacks that were obviously left over from Richelieu, you’re just not sure if being in Vegas is a good idea, especially as your darling Mate is really contemplating his priorities and has stayed behind, seeming unlikely to return.”

“I might just come in my pants. I love it when you go all Ceasar on me.” He was across the expansive couch, straddling Nico’s lap, kissing him with everything he had. “It’s just so hard being away from you.”

“Remember that when we get wrapped up in our careers and forget what’s important.” Nico had both hands on his Mate’s ass, pulling him closer as they got lost in each other.

So, being the good Mate he was, and the cautious Co-Leader of his Clan, he did just what he’d been told.

He went back to Vegas, gave everyone the much edited version of what had happened during Katrina, and how Nico was having a hard time leaving his beloved Manor and desperate city, especially in the face of so much disarray.

Gil had suffered a panic attack. Though he took to heart what Warrick had said, and didn’t call Nico instantly, it was amazing what a clan war, a burial, and a hurricane could do. He actually waited a full week instead, then called to check in on Nick. He didn’t demand answers, or explanations. He just wanted to make sure he was doing okay.

Warrick’s respect went up for him just a little, but that still didn’t mean the man would ever make it into his famous black book of potential partners for his Mate to share a bed with.

Sara naturally showed her concern, but instead of bitching or going off on Nick for not being able to handle the job, she took over his cases for him, and made sure he had the credit when they were solved.

Greg eyed him suspiciously, but kept quiet and let Warrick do what was needed to be done.

Bobby telling horror stories of what he’d seen for himself during Katrina, only helped to reinforce the seriousness of what was happening in New Orleans.

Brass was in on it, as Nico doesn’t keep things from Thomas. Besides, Jim was a member of the founding fathers of Sylum. Over the centuries he’d seen his Quartermaster be a right bastard, but the deadly calm he showcased in the face of their current situation, was a reminder of the truly vicious pirate he actually was.

It had been a long time since they’d played this type of game, though having to flip between French, Spanish, and Pirate while having any given conversation, was starting to get some attention. Gil stared in fascination, Greg smirked and blinked a few times, and he swore Sarah was taking notes.

Catherine.

Well, she was too content to give a shit about anything.

Which only meant he was going to enjoy this moment all the more.

Stopping at the front entrance, he schooled his features, yanked the door open, and stalked into the lab.

The receptionist glanced over at him, giving him a bright, cheery smile, and a thumbs up.

He gave her a duly confused look, then made his way to his locker.

“Hey!” Greg bounced into the room. “Been to the breakroom, yet?”

“No.” He leaned back and gave him a hard stare.

Greg ignored his mood and gave him a wink before running off.

The locker door slammed shut in irritation, as Warrick left the room.

He made sure to control his steps. There was no need to rush. After all, he had ‘no idea’ what was waiting for him. It wouldn’t be good for anyone to see him skipping down the hallway singing, ‘A Pirate’s Life For Me’.

The squeal from Sarah – or was that Gil? – was the first thing that caught his attention, and he stopped in the middle of the hallway, only to find a few of the labrats sticking their heads out of their areas, looking around in confusion.

“What was that?” Hodges demanded.

“How should I know?” Warrick snapped, before continuing his journey.

Which rudeness cost him a disgusted snort from his colleague.

Not that he cared.

There were other things to worry about.

At the breakroom door, he took a breath, rolled his shoulders back, and stepped inside to see Nick with an armful of Sara.

Okay, so it had been her doing the squealing.

Channeling his inner Kirk Lazarus, Warrick let his mouth drop open, his eyes grow wide, and his face turn to shock. “What the fuck?!”

“Surprise!” Nick gave him a cheeky smile, then gestured at Sara who still hadn’t let go. “I would give you a proper hello, but you might have to wait your turn.”

“Fuck that.” Warrick pried Sara off him, and set her carefully to one side before yanking Nick into his arms and kissing him hard.

In turn, Nico grabbed him by the belt loops, pulling him closer, deepening the kiss.

Neither of them had to fake how much they’d missed each other.

And for Warrick, such moments of reconnecting, reminded him just how much Nico’s presence centered his Soul.

God, he had missed this.

The feel, smell, taste of his Mate.

“Warrick! What the hell?!” Gil’s voice rose at least two octaves, thinking he had just caught his subordinate making out with some random dude in the breakroom.

Duly chastised, Warrick pulled away from his Mate then looked back at Gil, giving their supervisor a clear view of who he was kissing. His irritation at being interrupted, was more than clear. “What?” he demanded.

“Nick!” Gil dropped his armful of files onto the table, and moved across the room, only stopping short when Warrick refused to move.

Nico chuckled, kissing his Mate one last time, then patting his ass before moving out of his embrace. “Hello, Gil.”

Grissom couldn’t help what came next, and he had his arms around the Texan in seconds.

Though they had talked several times over the past few weeks – Nico letting him know about the slowness of New Orleans’ recovery, his frustrations with the government, and his anger at nothing getting done – seeing him in person settled something inside of him. It was likely that part of him was always eager to keep his Nicky in view and ensure he was safe. He knew it was irrational, but he’d given up caring about that quite a while back.

“Gil, get your hands off Nick’s ass!” Sara snickered lightly, happy to see Nick back. “Or I’ll let Warrick kill you, and help him cover up the crime scene.”

“My girl, you do love me.” Warrick put his hand over his heart, then held out his fist smiling as the two of them bumped knuckles.

“I just couldn’t bear seeing you mope around any more.” Sara teased him with a grin. “Besides, Nick has cases he needs to catch up with.”

Gil finally let go, blushing slightly at being caught coping a feel. Still, he gave Nick a knowing wink, and enjoyed the soft chuckle it provoked. “It’s good to see you. Are you staying? Or is this a formal…?”

“I’m staying.” Nick patted him on the shoulder, noticing how his friends both relaxed at his words. “I talked to the Sheriff, and we’ve come to an agreement on how to handle my absence. After everything with the kidnapping, the trauma from Katrina totally set me back. But I’m good now.” He gave them both a wink. “Or more to the point, if I’d stayed in the city any longer, I would be up on charges for murdering the Mayor, the Governor, and a few other righteous assholes who think the hurricane was punishment from God for New Orleans being filled with immorality.”

Gil rolled his eyes at the vast nature of human stupidity. “Though I’m sure New Orleans could use your support, I’m glad you’re back. We’re actually quiet today. If you want to work with Sara, she can catch you up on your older cases…”

“Well, look what the wet cat dragged in!” Brass stood in the doorway, giving Nick a smirk. “You could’ve warned us.” He glared pointedly at Warrick.

“I came in this afternoon, met with the Sheriff and Ecklie. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will be.” The dark humor in the detective’s voice was indicator enough of how much he was actually going to enjoy what came next.

“What is going on here?” Catherine’s voice came from the corridor, and Nick had to give Brass credit for not cackling evilly but instead stepping graciously into the room, holding the door open for her so she could get a full view of the proceedings.

It was one of those moments in life when everything slowed down.

Nicolaus put on his best Nicky Stokes smile, as she walked in. “Hey, Cath.”

Warrick shifted closer to his Mate as Brass closed the door behind them, making sure to keep the lab’s gossip hounds from seeing things.

Gil glanced from Nick to Cath, then glanced over at Brass, who seemed like his normal grumpy self. Then his gaze shifted slightly to Sara, who moved closer to Nick.

Something was going on, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t good.

“I’m surprised to see you.” Catherine held herself in check, making sure to not react in more than comradely concern. “I figured with everything, Vegas would be the last place you’d want to be ever again.”

“I don’t like unfinished business,” Nick answered honestly.

“And the Sheriff is okay with you just taking so much time off? I mean, there’s only so much you can get away with, and you’ve been gone for six weeks.” She couldn’t quite smile at him, but at the same time she was doing her normal motherly routine.

“We had a good discussion about Mental Health, and how it affects this type of job.” He didn’t smile at her easily either. “I’ll be doing double duty for a while, plus I maxed out my vacation, sick days, and holidays for the next ten years.”

Gil chuckled slightly. “Welcome to the night shift.”

Nick laughed in reply, then turned to Sara. “You took my cases?”

“Yep, and solved a few of them too. As it seems tonight of all nights, we’re actually quiet, let me catch you up.” She took his arm, and led them out of the room.

Only Warrick caught the side-eye she gave Gil, who did nothing more than nod slightly in acknowledgement.

“I’ve got my own case, and I’m sure Brass here was stopping by to tell me he found my missing shooter?” Warrick deflected the moment.

“Of course I did.” Brass rolled his eyes, then gestured to the door. “I’ll even drive you to his bad guy hangout.”

Gil waited until he was left alone with Catherine.

He stood there for a moment, noticing how tense and irritated she was, and struggled to know whether he should confront her with what had just happened, or leave it well alone. Instead he stalled things, by grabbing his papers and organizing them fussily over the table top.

“Are you okay with this?” she asked, tone slightly snappy. “Of course you are, your boy is back.”

He took a few moments, then looked at her squarely, knowing she was one of his oldest friends. “Yes. I’m happy Nick is back. He’s a damn good CSI and I would hate to see him go. I would’ve understood it though, if he’d gone. He came back from being kidnapped, and that took some force of personality to pull off. What’s that famous line – the best revenge is to keep living? That he holds no anger or hatred toward those who buried him alive, will never cease to amaze me. He’s a better man than I am. Hell, I still want to throttle Gordon. The hurricane? That wasn’t personal, that was an act of nature, and it stole so many lives. The people of New Orleans, are his people. They may not know it, but he takes care of them. Have you even read any of the reports coming out of Louisiana?” He wasn’t sure she was even listening, but he pressed onward regardless. “No evacuations were issued, people drowned in their homes, no one is taking responsibility, and everyone is pointing fingers at each other. No one cares, Cath, but he does. It’s what makes him a good CSI. He cares. Yeah, I bitched about it for years, mainly because he was different from how I wanted him to work. But he’s not us. He’s not me. Hell he isn’t even Nick Stokes, he’s Nicolaus Meridius, and I would follow him into hell if he needed me to.”

“Warrick let you fuck him?”

“Nick let you fuck Warrick?”

She stared at him in shock, not knowing what to say, surprised at Gil’s response.

He just gave her a sad smile. “Catherine, I’m not sure what’s going on here, but Nick and Warrick are Mates, bonded in ways you can’t even imagine. You’re pissed that you can’t get Warrick’s dick. It hurts, I know. You’re pissed your mother was in on the whole Vampire thing, and didn’t tell you. Well, that’s on her, not them. I don’t say this often, but grow up. You’re acting like a spoiled child who didn’t get what they wanted for Christmas.”

And with that, he grabbed his folders, leaving her there to contemplate his words.

***
Brass glanced over the top of his car.

Warrick Calhoun wasn’t someone he’d set eyes on for a while.

“You’re okay leaving her in there with Nico?” he asked.

“My boy can handle himself.” Warrick gave him a knowing stare. “Besides, this is a long con. It’s not going to be outright war, just small annoying cuts.”

“You want me to keep an eye on her more closely?” When Thomas had sat him down to explain what they’d discovered, not just about Nico’s kidnapping but what the hurricane had washed in too, it had taken him a while to regain some calm. And to be honest, Brass still wasn’t sure he was all that calm. To think someone he’d befriended years before, was part of an attack on his Clan Leader and his Clan itself, had the pirate itching to get out.

Badly.

“Nah, we’re just going to lay low. Nico’s called in Bauer. And he’s got his new pet mercenary taking things on.”

Brass laughed like he’d just ordered an all out assault on an enemy vessel. “It’s moments like these a pirate lives for!”

***

Sylum Manor: June 2006

Nico stepped out of the SUV, before it even stopped. Even after all these years, Van Helsing still had no idea how he did that, and not get run over. It was understandable when they were driving a Ford Model T, who was being lovingly taken care of in the garage, that never went over ten miles an hour. But, when it was a modern SUV with child safety locks, which Nick still got past, he couldn’t figure it out.

Artemus had barely gotten the front doors open in time, shocked that Thomas hadn’t anticipated Nico’s arrival, or it would seem knew he was coming. He opened his mouth to ask if there was anything he needed, but the Roman breezed past him, and headed for the kitchen.

Artemus leaned slightly to the right, and watched as Nico quickly turned at the Butler Pantry and went straight to Thomas’ rooms. He looked around, noticing he was the only one seeing what he was seeing, so decided to leave it at that, and went back to his office and acted like nothing interesting happened.

Nico stood in the Caretaker’s living room, waiting patiently.

Brass had shown up at his and Warrick’s house, ranting that Thomas was being stubborn arse, more so than usual. He looked Nico directly in the eyes, and calming stated ‘the rope locker didn’t work’.

One of Nico’s eyebrows rose slightly at the statement. He gave Brass a nod, stood and made his way to the front door, where he grabbed his keys and phone. Just as the door slammed, they could hear him telling Lance to prep the plane.

During flight, he had tried to call Thomas, but he wasn’t answering his phone. Anytime he tried to call the house phone, cook answered it, and by her tone it was obvious Thomas ordered her to.

Before they landed, he contacted Van Helsing to be at the airport, and then made one last call to Rossi, who politely informed him that Thomas had not come to see him in the past few months.

There was a reason they had an on staff Psychiatrist. Vampires lived a long time, and there were moments of trying to deal with the reality of the present mixed in with expectations of the past, could do a number on a Vampire’s psyche. Add in the dramatic recent events, from Richelieu attacking the Manor, Nico’s personal ordeal, the Hurricane that swept through New Orleans, Ellis, and then That Night … Rossi was a source of comfort and help.

Plus Nico ordered the clan to talk to him at least once a year, and Rossi was tenacious enough to hunt particular Clan Members down, when they were being stroppy. Nico himself could testify to that fact, as could Speed. When his stubborn ass Irish son, willingly called Rossi, when Thomas was actively avoiding the Psychiatrist …

This was beyond nicely suggesting his friend to take some time off. Drastic times called for drastic measures, and if he had to physically kidnap him and toss his ass onto a plane, he would.

So here he stood in the middle of his friend’s living room. The place was quiet, he could hear Thomas finishing up in the bathroom, then the movement of drawers, and rustling of clothes.

When the door opened, Nico was standing stock still hands on his hips, leveling a glare that would send most soldiers running for the hills.

“Master Nico!” Thomas blinked a few times, trying not to show he had been caught off guard.

“Barron Efford.” Nico’s voice was firm, and indicated he wouldn’t tolerate any foolishness. “You will go back into that room, pack your bags. Which, then you’ll be taking at least six weeks off, and heading to England to spend some down time at Lady Croft’s Manor. Interestly enough, there is a tech expedition going on that I’m sure you would find fascinating, and the Herriots have sent an invitation to come by and see Brad.”

Thomas stood ramrod straight, as the two stared each other down. They had 500 years of friendship, history, loyalty, devastation, and love between them. They knew each other’s weaknesses, strengths, and how to counter both of them.

The Roman’s stance alone was enough for Thomas to know this wasn’t an argument he was going to win. Not that it stopped him from trying.

“I’m not taking no for an answer.” Nico easily read his body language and knew Thomas was too stubborn to go down without a fight.

“Master Nico.”

“Thomas, do not make me repeat myself.”

“In all honesty sir, there is a lot of work that needs to be done here. The Manor still needs repairs after the Hurricane, plus preparations for July 4th. And there is still the issue of ramification of That Night…” Thomas rattled off excuses of why he couldn’t leave, still not sure what to do with Nico in his rooms. It wasn’t right for the Master of the House to be in the ‘Servant Quarters’.

“Artemus is helping with the grounds which, I might add, look better than they did before Katrina, and the July 4th Celebration will go off without a hitch. And you need not worry about That Night?” He countered each argument.

“I just don’t think this is a good time for me to go.” He continued as if Nick had not said anything at all.

“You’ve been working yourself to the bone.” He sighed, running his hands over his face, his concern for his friend showed in his expression. “You’ve been there for Speed, for me, for this Clan, and now you need time for yourself.”

“I would feel better being here.” It was a weak argument and he knew it.

“If you’re here, you will work, and that isn’t taking time for yourself. Don’t make me call Brass.”

“Leave my Mate out of it.” There was an edge to his voice, one that most wouldn’t cross.

“Who do you think showed up at my front door, and demanded I pack your bags and ship you off on vacation.” Nico gave him a pointed look, indicating he wasn’t going to stand for grandstanding. “He told me Thomas.”

Thomas’ eyes went wide, not sure if he was angry or relieved.

The two had argued last time Brass had been home, and uncharacteristically he had sent him back to Vegas without even a kiss goodbye.

“We have seen each other in our best and worst, but when your Mate can’t get you to let go and lose yourself in him and your history, there’s a problem, my dear friend.”

Thomas sighed and sat down on the couch, a few seconds later Nico was next to him, pulling him into his arms, holding him close. “I’m afraid.”

“I know.” He kissed the top of his head. “We’ll be fine.”

“No offense, Master Nico, but this past year or so has been one thing after the next. What if I’m not here … ”

“There’s this thing called an airplane, you might have heard of it.” Nico ignored the undignified snort. “I promise to be a good boy, and not venture off from any crime scenes, and will let Brass babysit me until you get back.”

“I’ll know if you don’t.” He shifted until upright, giving his friend a small smile. “I know what battles to fight, and this is not one of them. It would be good to see the Herriots and visit young Brad.”

“Pack up, and I’ll drop you off at the airport. I have to get back to Vegas, I work tonight.” He gave Thomas a smile as he stood and headed for the door, to give him some privacy.

“Thank you.”

Nicolaus turned and smiled softly. “I would do anything for you.” With that he left the room, and went looking for some food, he couldn’t remember the last time he ate anything.

***
Warrick opened the door to see Gil and Sara standing on his doorstep. His eyes narrowed suspiciously, yet stepped back to let them in. Brass was right behind them, looking tired and haggard, yet had a small smile on his face.

Thomas had installed some manners into the Pirate, as he went to make coffee for the unexpected guests. He had just got off the phone with Nick, who was on his way home. He informed him that he had personally escorted Thomas to his flight to London, flashed his badge and wrangled his way past security. Damn, Warrick wished he had seen that, Nico was hot when he went all General.

Thomas was on the plane, heading for his home country. Nico made arrangements for Jake and Evie to pick him up, and drive him out to Croft Manor. Nico agreed he needed time away from the stresses of the Clan, but didn’t mean he was leaving Thomas unprotected.

Brass seemed less stressed than he had been just twelve hours before, so at least he didn’t have to worry about a scrowly detective on his ass, out on a crime scene. He set a tray of cups and a coffee carafe, with cream and sugar.

While Thomas had installed some manners, Harold taught him how to be more sophisticated, not that it took, but he learned a few things. He wondered how Harold was doing, especially with John fighting overseas. Nick had tried to locate John, even to the point he called Grant, only to discover that ‘John Tallis’ didn’t exist.

“So what brings you two here?” He sat down and leaned back in the chair, arms resting on the sides, giving them both his pirate look. The fact the two showed up when Nico wasn’t home, was setting alarm bells off. The past year and a half had been stressful, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with more shit. “Convenient it’s when Nico isn’t here.”

“We need to talk to you.” Sara glanced at Gil, then back at Warrick.

So much had changed since their secret had been revealed. She had grown, become a stronger, better woman … person. The ring on her left hand was something she would’ve never expected to see, but Dave had been patient with her, and showed her what true love was, instead of a silly crush.

Back in January when they all had returned from New Orleans, she had been heartbroken that the team had been separated, finally feeling as if they were a cohesive unit. But, she also understood some of the reasoning, before they left, Gil and Nick’s relationship was hostile at best, everyone had seen their fight in the middle of the halls. Ecklie, not wanting to lose Stokes, had separated the two.

Then Nick had been taken from a crime scene and everything changed.

The lab was still feeling the effects of that night. The cops were more aware of the CSI’s, the CSI’s had started to talk to the cops. There was less tension between departments and shifts.

The team had been put back together, the higher ups even compensated Catherine, by keeping her a supervisor and Gil’s second. The first night they all stood together at a crime scene, the air was thick with emotion. Sara will deny it to her dying day, that she had tears in her eyes.

Nick later teased them it was like the parents got back together, and finally they could have a real family Christmas. Gil grumbled, Catherine rolled her eyes, Warrick laughed lightly, giving Nick a playful push, while Greg demanded a pony for Christmas. Sara had just sat there, trying not to cry.

Later Nick pulled her into his arms, and let her cry on his shoulder – it hadn’t been the first time and likely wouldn’t be the last.

After everything Nick had done for her, she refused to walk away from his case. The department stated it was closed, due to the fact the guy blew himself up, and the daughter was in jail, and had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

Her instincts screamed that something wasn’t right with the whole thing, making it impossible for her to let it go. There were too many coincidences, she didn’t like. Nothing set right with her, so she continued to investigate, catalog all the evidence, go over it with a fine tooth comb. She treated it like it was a cold case, and any time she had down time, she pulled out all her notes, went to the warehouse where all of it had been stored, and continued the investigation. Dave at times would bring her coffee, and sit with her, asking questions playing Devil’s advocate. He got her need to see this through, which made her love him more.

She wasn’t surprised when Gil joined the investigation. He showed up, when Warrick returned from New Orleans without Nick.

As they investigated they took a step back from the horror of what happened that night, and focused on what was in front of them as investigators, not friends of the victim.

The more they uncovered, the worse the implications. Which led them to sitting in Warrick and Nick’s living room, presenting the evidence they had found.

“We wanted to talk to you about that night.” Sara glanced at Gil, then back at Warrick. Her boss may have patched things with Nick, but it was obvious Warrick didn’t quite trust him near his Mate.

“Which ‘That Night’?” He asked looking between the two, who were giving him a slight confused expression. “Rome. Vatican. I’m pretty sure even the most non-Catholics were watching.”

“What does that have to do with Nick?” Gil asked, just as his eyes went wide. “Nick was there?”

Warrick kept his mouth shut, and glanced over at Sara. “I’m guessing you’re referring to Nick’s kidnapping and burial?”

“Yes.” She stared at Gil, who was glaring at Warrick, who was ignoring him.

Brass just chuckled and shook his head. “Gil, it was a threat to Rome, of course Nicolaus Meridius was there, and from what I do know – it was a good thing he was.”

“You can’t leave me hanging like that!” Gil looked between the two. “What happened? I mean besides the threat to the Vatican, and does he know anything about the young Pope Patrick or the new guy they elected after the fire?”

“Can we focus on why we’re here.” Sara gave her boss a shove. “Right now the information we have is more important than what happened in Rome.”

Warrick shifted until he was on the edge of the chair. “What information?”

She took a deep breath. “After we got Nick out of the coffin, and then you took him ironically to Rome so he can heal. I couldn’t put it away. I needed to do something. Nick…” She paused trying to get the right words. “Nick was there for me. Despite the shit I put him through, he was there. I couldn’t be there for him, he had you and from what I’m starting to understand a large family. So I focused on what I could do, so I started cataloging the evidence. The Sheriff, Ecklie, practically everyone washed their hands of it. Nick was fine … the perp was dead, no one cared. But I had to know why. Why did he do this? I blame Nick for that.” That got a chuckle out of Warrick and Brass, and a snort from Gil. “So I systematically went through every piece of evidence, wrote down notes, asked questions, treated it like it was an open case.”

“I soon joined her.” Gil spoke up as he reached for the coffee, needing something in his hands. “As you know, I’m still coming to terms with everything … being a Vampire, past lives, the whole community, all of it. Then there were those weeks he stayed in New Orleans, it was something I could do for him, the bonus was it kept me occupied. In the middle of all of this is Nick, he’s my center point.”

Warrick nodded in understanding. “He has that way about him.”

Gil snorted. “Science will always ground me so I focused on that.”

“We were half way through cataloging all the evidence, when something didn’t match up.” Sara handed over the folder that she had in her lap to Warrick. “The premise of this investigation was that the whole thing was random. He wasn’t aiming for a specific CSI, but anyone he could grab.”

Warrick took the folder and started reading over their notes. “I’m guessing you haven’t taken this up the food chain.”

“No,” Gil admitted.

Brass shifted slightly, studying his friend. He, like Warrick, already knew what the report would say. He was curious on how Gil was handling the implications. “Is there a reason why?”

Sara glanced again at Gil, then continued. “You stated that Catherine gave you two the choice of which one got the trash run. Indicating that this whole thing was a fluke and Nick got the bad end of the coin toss.”

Warrick focused on her. “Say it Sara.”

“The coffin isn’t a standard size.” She held Warrick’s gaze. “It’s 5 feet 10 inches. It fits Nick perfectly. You would’ve never fit in it unless they broke your legs and even then it would be hard pressed to get the lid down, without bending them back.”

Warrick cringed, not even wanting to think about it.

“It wasn’t random.” Gil glanced between Brass and Warrick. “Nick was the target.”

Warrick closed the report, set it on the table, studying them. “No shit.”

They blinked, looked at each other, then back at Warrick, who chuckled despite the seriousness of the situation. “My boy is smart, and he’s a damn good CSI. But more importantly, he was in that damn coffin, and once the stress of what happened wore off, and the poison of the ants came out of his system, he realized something very important – his feet touched the plastic as did his head. Once we got back from Rome, we realized you were still investigating so let you do your thing – cause your damn good CSIs.”

“What we don’t know is if Nick Stokes was the target or Nicolaus Meridius.” Gil relaxed in his seat, now that the information was out, he could look at it from a different perspective.

“Wrong question Gil.” Warrick leaned back in his own chair, watching the two as they both had the sudden realization.

“It’s not if it was intended for him, the question we should be asking is who had the ability to make it about him.” Sara paused, not liking the implications that question could lead. “You wouldn’t fit in the coffin.”

“No.”

“So Nick was the one who had to go on that particular trash run.”

“Yes.”

“Just to play devil’s advocate.” Gil wanted to make sure they covered all their bases. “Sara and I could’ve fit in the coffin, as could’ve Greg.”

“Greg wouldn’t be sent out by himself.” Sara pointed out, following the logic of the situation. “And this was a swing shift case.”

“Catherine is small enough,” he argued. Though his brain was already zinging off with circumstantial evidence. Things she had said, how she reacted, and more importantly how giddy she was when Nick wasn’t in Vegas, and now that he returned she was borderline aggressive to him.

“And when has she ever taken a trash run willingly?” Sara huffed at him. “She was their supervisor, Gil. She got to choose who went on the case.”

“But you two did a coin toss.” He glanced back at Warrick.

He smirked, every inch the pirate. “Actually, Catherine did the coin toss. It’s the oldest trick in the book, Gil. It didn’t matter how the coin landed. Heads or Tails you either ‘win the trash run’ or ‘lose and get the trash run’.”

***
A few hours later, Warrick met Nico at the airport. His boy looked exhausted but at least somewhat rested. He had freshened up, and changed clothes while on the plane, so looked presentable enough for work.

“Want to tell me what’s going on?” Nick asked as they made their way to Warrick’s waiting vehicle.

“Thomas?”

“Okay we’ll go with the distraction first.” Nico side-eyed him. “He’s still in route, but is expected to land in a few hours, Jake and Evie are already at the airport. Lara called Hilary and he’s prepared a suite, and has assured everyone that Thomas will not be allowed to lift a finger while he’s there. The Herriots have planned for Thomas and Brad to have a few days together. I’ve contacted Alfred, and he’s going to take a few days and go visit Thomas, attend the tech fair with him. I’m ignoring the calls from Arthur and Guin, who will have to fend for themselves for a few days.”

Warrick chuckled, then leaned down and kissed his Mate deeply. “Gil and Sara came by, they’ve been investigating your case.”

“Ah.” He pulled Warrick into another kiss, then settled into the passenger seat of the SUV, he was thankful his Mate had prepped both their kits and had them in the back. “And their conclusion?”

“It wasn’t random, and they don’t like the ramifications of that particular scenario.” He slid behind the while, starting the car up. “Neither know how to handle the information, but are keeping it under wraps at the moment.”

“Has Bauer come up with anything?” He asked as they made their way into Vegas, heading for the lab to start their shift.

“Last I checked Bauer had some choice words about Sam Braun, while keeping an eye on Balthazar.” Warrick chuckled at the memory of the CTU Hunter, who ranted about Mob Bosses and Vegas.

They knew they had to handle the situation carefully. They couldn’t throw accusations around, and there was nothing they could do within the Vampire community, as Catherine was still human.

Bauer had been their best choice, he was unknown to Catherine or even Frankenstein, though there had been no report of him in the area for a while.

He also was fairly close to Vegas, and had connections that even made Nico weep with envy. The Hunter had been doing massive research on Sam Braun, and his connections and to see if he had ties to the Vampire Community, and if that was how Frankenstein found Catherine.

So far his findings had been sketchy, but enough that he kept digging into the Mob Bosses past. Last he had talked to the man, he was working with Ed Deline, who had even more connections and ties to Old Vegas.

“Then we keep going like we have been.” Nick shrugged, not liking the situation, but at the moment they only really had theories, threads that went nowhere, and gut instinct. Nothing that would stand in human or vampire court.

“So what did you have to promise to get Thomas on vacation?” He asked with a sense of curiosity.

“Promised not to run off by myself at crime scenes and let Brass babysit me.”

“Oh man … this is going to be the best vacation ever!”

Nico glared at his Mate.

***
“What?” Nico stepped out of the building and made his way to the back corner. It was still the best spot to have a private conversation.

‘You heard me Master Nico.’ Thomas’ voice was tight with emotion and frustration. ‘This vacation hasn’t been the most relaxing, but despite it all, I found my wife.’

Nico took a few deep breaths, Jake and Arthur had informed him of what had happened to his Thomas, while he was supposed to be relaxing away from all the damn stress, not tangling with idiot thieves.

“As someone who has recently found my darling Sofya I understand the elation and fears.” Nico leaned back against the concrete wall, taking in everything Thomas was telling him. He poured his heart out to his friend, and Nick could hear the emotion in his voice. “Bring him home Thomas.”

‘I’m spending some time with young Bradley, and then we’ll be leaving at the end of the week. As Master Frye hasn’t left Croft Manor, I’m sure you will be informed of all of my movements.’

He laughed lightly. “As I’m sure Brass has told you all of mine.”

‘Indeed sir.’ There was a tilt of humor in the reply. ‘I’ll call you when we get back to the Manor.’

Nick hung up the phone to see Warrick standing not far off. “Does he actually think I wouldn’t be in New Orleans when he shows up?” He tisked, shaking his head. “My dear Thomas is slipping in his old age.”

“He’s probably banking on the fact you won’t be able to get time off, or have Brass hold you here.” Warrick ran a hand through his Mate’s hair soothing him slightly. The past few weeks had been tiring for both of them. He had to stop Nico from going to England to find out what was going on, instead to trust Jake and Evie to do what they do best.

“If he thinks Brass isn’t going to show up in New Orleans …”

“Then he’s an idiot.” Brass gave them both a look, then motioned back inside. “Catherine is on a rampage looking for you, something about a case you just abandoned to do ‘clan’ things. She used the air quotes and everything.”

Nico sighed, ran a hand over his face, before heading into the building. The moment he walked back in, Gil grabbed and pulled him into one of the labs, tossed him a pair of overalls. “So I have a theory about our case.” Nico laughed as they played in the mud, to see if and how fast a gun could sink, with the theory of finding the murder weapon. He was so lost in the science that missed Catherine standing at the door, arms crossed as she watched the two for a moment before stalking off.

“Thanks Gil.”

“What are fathers for.” He gave Nico a wink, as he held up the ‘fake murder’ weapon. “Want to go digging?”

Thirty minutes later, they were on their way to the crime scene, having snagged Warrick and Greg to help with the digging.

***
Speed was out of the car before it stopped, he would let Van Helsing deal with the parking. The Hunter glared at the Irishman, muttering about how he was so much like his fucking father.

He had begged Eric to take his shift so he could get a flight to New Orleans so he could meet Thomas when he returned from England. The fact he found his wife after all these years, was a big deal.

The Reformation had been hard on all of them, Timothy was taught by Monks learning to read and write, via Catholicism. Tony was a devout Catholic, and though he will always tease his sister, he admired Tony’s deep faith. Nico though technically was Baptised Catholic, in the early years of the Church, understood losing one’s life for your beliefs. So they fought to save as many as they could during Henry VIII war against Catholicism.

Rumors had been going around that Barron Efford had been hiding Priests. The Barron had a young family, and Arthur sent Nico to tell him to send the Priests in his direction, where it was safer for everyone.

They had arrived before evening meal.

Thomas was a gracious host, along with his beautiful wife, and Nico couldn’t keep his hands off the tiny little baby girl. Timothy had watched, having flashbacks to when Papa would play with young Theo. Despite everything, Nico was still very much a father, and looked content with a baby in his arms.

Tony had talked to the young Priest who was terrified most of the time, yet determined to continue being a Priest. His flock needed him, and just because wolves were in the area it didn’t mean he should abandon them, instead his job was to protect them even more.

The attack came in the middle of the night.

The fire spread quickly through the house, Tony had gotten Thomas out, but had obtained second degree burns on his arms and hands, when he tried to go back in to save the Priest.

Nico had faced the fire, determined to save the screaming baby. There was something about him, a drive that neither Tony or Timothy had ever seen. He was a man possessed, risking everything to get to the crying infant. He ended up leaping out the second story window, landing perfectly on the ground baby tied to his chest with blankets and sheets. He handed the little one over to Thomas, apologizing for not being able to save his wife.

Timothy had taken out the soldiers who had raided the house, not one had survived his wrath.

They fled the destruction, before more arrived, and by the time dawn broke they were far enough away, though not entirely safe. They had a decision to make on what to do next.

Thomas had no idea how to raise a little one, Nico had been doing most of the caretaking of the baby. There was no place for the baby to be shipped off to, all the nunneries had been destroyed, and the few places Nico trusted, were across the channel. With the ongoing wars, getting the baby there was impossible.

So they did the one thing they could, and gave her to Arthur and Guin.

Thomas knew his daughter was with the right people, and devoted his life in taking care of Nicolaus.

Speed chuckled lightly at the memory of the argument the two had over Thomas becoming Nico’s man servant, Papa had lost, but gained a devoted friend.

Thomas’ daughter had grown up to be a beautiful young woman, who married and had children of her own, and over the centuries led down to Ellis.

His heart ached thinking of her, but despite their tumultuous relationship, they loved each other dearly. So Speed would be there for Thomas in this amazing moment, as Ellis would want, and for the fact that Thomas had always been there for them. Despite everyone knew Nicolaus came first in Thomas’ life, he took care of all of them.

He wasn’t surprised to see Tony sitting innocently on the front porch, sipping a fresh glass of lemonade. Speed gave his sister a look, “a bit obvious.”

“Just the look I was going for.” He grinned at his brother, and held up another glass. “Artemus put out some lemonade.”

Tim grabbed a glass and sat down next to him. “Are we actually going to sit here and wait?”

“Yep.” Tony sipped his drink. “We’re at least honest about it. Everyone else is in the parlor waiting ‘patiently’.”

“So how was your trip to Paris?” Tim asked, nudging him slightly.

“Beautiful.” Tony’s smile was slightly wicked. After everything that had happened, since Jethro’s Turning, the two had needed time away. So they left the office in the capable hands of Kate and McGee, and took a vacation. Tony threw Jethro’s phone into the river, after the fifth time someone from NCIS called just to ‘ask a quick question’.

“Never left the bedroom did you?” He sipped his lemonade, hiding his smirk.

“That’s for me to know, and … ”

“I won’t mention that Marek called and he’s upset that you didn’t show up for dinner.” Nico’s voice came from behind them, as he settled next to his two kids.

They both looked at him slightly surprised to see him, yet not. Tony shrugged, still smirking. “We showed up, two days later.”

Artemus looked out the front door to see Nico and his two kids sitting and talking animatedly. They were laughing, and looked calm and content. He took a deep breath and sighed happily. “What is it?” He turned to see Jim watching him.

“Just that maybe, maybe things will calm down.” He sat down in one of the chairs. “Last year was hard on everyone, and earlier this year wasn’t good either. And seriously don’t even get me started on the ramifications on That Night.”

“But we all got through it,” West squatted down next to his Mate. “Speed is out there with Tony laughing, it’s good to see those two bonding again. We’re seeing more of the Roman since That Night, which is a good thing.”

“All true,” he smiled at his Mate. “Are you staying in New Orleans for a while?”

“Got assigned down to the New Orleans office,” Jim smirked at Artemus’ shocked expression.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked, jumping up out of the chair almost knocking his Mate on to the floor.

“Surprise!” West stood up, and pulled his Mate into his arms, kissing him deeply. “I wasn’t sure if it would go through, I pulled some sob story about family and helping those recover. So they assigned me down here. I’m working downtown.”

Artemus grinned, “I can bring you lunch.”

Jim laughed and shook his head. “Babe you’re lucky if you remember to eat lunch.”

“Thomas is going to be back so I can take more time” They both stopped when they heard a car pull up. Giving up all pretenses of ‘waiting patiently’, they ran out onto the porch.

Timothy was down the steps in seconds, Tony not far behind. He pulled Thomas into his arms to give him a quick embrace. “It’s good to see you.”

Thomas fixed his suit and then straightened Speed’s shirt. “It’s good to be home, Master Timothy.” He looked back over Speed’s shoulder and smiled. “Master Anthony.”

Tony pushed his brother aside and gave the Vampire a hug. “Good to see you. I thought Artemus was going to go insane. He just bitched and bitched.” The slap actually echoed through the driveway.

Artemus glared at him as he shook his hand out from the pain of the headslap. Jethro never mentioned how much it actually hurt. He ignored the whining, and focused on the other Vampire, “Thomas it’s good you’re home. I don’t know how you take care of these hoodlums.”

“I don’t. I take care of Master Nicolaus and he takes care of his children.” He glanced over to the Master of the house, who was waiting patiently behind everyone else.

Nico laughed lightly, as his kids both yelled indignantly at the insult. With a few steps, Thomas was in his arms, both relishing the closeness. Nico stepped back, smiling brightly at the joy he could see in Thomas. “Welcome home.”

“It’s good to be home, sir.” He squeezed Nico’s arm, then turned back towards the car. “I would like you to meet someone.”

“So where’s the wife?” Jim asked as he walked up to the group. Missing Thomas’ sigh. “Hey Hilary, what brings you here? Come to see Lara?”

Nico held out his hand, to the obviously nervous man, who was sure he landed in an insane asylum, but then he worked for Lara Croft, he’s likely used to it. “Welcome to Sylum, Hilary.”

“Thank you, sir. If half of what Thomas has told me is true, I shall never be bored.” He shook his hand, giving him a half smile. “My dear husband, did warn me about you.”

“I’m sure he did.” He winked at him. “Believe everything and nothing.”

Hilary chuckled lightly before smiling softly at the site of Thomas in his Mate’s arms. “Really my dear husband married a pirate.”

“Pirates aren’t too bad, as long as you train them properly.” Nico felt it was a win, when Hilary snorted uncivilized like, and he got a glare over Thomas’ shoulder from Brass.

Jim West chuckled softly at first, which soon turned into a full belly laugh. He shook his head, and leaned against Artemus, who though found the situation humorous, wasn’t quite losing his mind like his Mate. “Ignore the laughing hyena next to me, welcome to the insanity, be nice to have another proper Englishman, to help civilize these Americans.”

“Roman.”

“Irish.”

“French.”

Thomas sighed at the three, as he stepped away from Brass. He should’ve realized his Mate, the tough Pirate that he was, would be waiting for him. They had talked for hours on the phone about Hilary, and the fact he had the soul of Thomas’ wife.

‘I’m not leaving you.’

‘I know you’re not.’ Brass huffed on the phone. ‘It’s just weird. I didn’t have a family, nor did I ever care. But you had a wife and daughter, and that was a big deal. Sometimes I forget that you are a Barron, and had a life before the Red Stallion.’

‘Hilary is not my wife. He has her soul, and in many aspects her quiet grace and acceptance to what goes on around him. I loved her, we had a good marriage, believed in fighting for what was right, I mourned when she died but being with Nico showed me that I would see her again. But, and listen to me James, you are my Mate. My soul belongs to you, as you belong to me. I will be grateful to you, for tattling on me to Nico and putting me on this vacation for who knows if I would’ve ever met Hilary any other way. But don’t think for a second Pirate that you don’t belong to me.’

‘I have no doubt I belong to you, and I know who you belong to.’ James laughed lightly. ‘Nico just lets me borrow you from time to time.’

Thomas in a rare moment, laughed out loud and hard. ‘My dear James. I do love you so.’

‘Bring the wifey home. Make sure he understands you’re mine, and the crazy shit he’s getting herself into.’

‘Hilary took care of Lara Croft, he’s prepared.’

‘Thomas. Lara is only a fourth crazy as the rest of the bastards. You were on the Red Stallion, you know.’

‘Good point.’ Thomas paused, and with a perfect deadpan sense of humor. ‘Hilary will learn soon enough, when someone tries to blow up something or Boxing Day comes around.’

‘Don’t forget the sex on the table, that’s a family tradition!’

Thomas rolled his eyes and hung up on his Mate, who was still laughing.

“Does Croft know your shacking up with Thomas?” West ignored the pirate’s and Thomas’ glare. “Wait does this mean you can help in controlling her?”

“I’ve tried for years, but nothing seems to work,” Hilary sighed.

“Oh I love you already.” Jim West slapped on the shoulder, just as Lara and Cassie came down the road from the garages.

Her and Indy had moved into New Orleans, once they became official parents to Nick’s charge Cassie. They had her enrolled in a private school, for the moment. When she came to Sylum Manor, at the beginning of the year, they weren’t sure her level of education. She soon became proficient, not just at her age level, but beyond. But then her parents were Archeologists, adopted Uncles were scientists, pirates, a Marine, and a Templar, and her hero was a Roman General.

The kid knows more about history than most historians, and was on the brink of being a mad scientist.

Cassie ran past Lara and straight into Nico’s arms. He laughed lightly, as he picked her up. “You’re getting way too big for this.”

“You’re a Vampire you can take it.” She wrapped her arms around his neck, then glanced over to Thomas. “Did you see Brad? How is he?”

Thomas smiled at the young girl. She had been a delight in the midst of so much darkness this past year. “He sends his regards, and I may have a small token of his appreciation in my bags.”

“Cool! Did you give him the bracelet I made?” She asked bouncing slightly, making Nick grunt as he shifted her out of his arms and onto his shoulders, where she wiggled even more.

Tony leaned close to his papa, laughing lightly. “I’m having so many flashbacks of Gloria right now.”

“Theo was the squirmy one, that kid couldn’t settle down if his life depended on it. Gloria just liked to be carried, until she was a big sister and all ‘grown up’.”

Nico smiled at the memory of taking his four kids to the market. Elena held Gloria’s hand as she led the pack. Razi pulled Antonio out of people’s way as he wandered from place to place, distracted by the shiny. Leaving Nico to deal with the squirmy worm that was Theo.

It was the day Elena met a young Roman soldier over spilled oranges, who would become her future suitor.

“The advantage now is that I can handle the weight easier.” Nico held her securely, as he rocked slightly, his fatherly instincts kicking in without even a second thought.

Cassie was talking to Thomas animatedly about Brad.

The two had met that spring, and it was a friendship forged for life. In all his years as a Vampire, he had never seen two children connect on such a level that it was obvious they were meant for each other.

The two had met when Brad had visited the Manor to meet Horatio, his father.

Thomas had talked to the Herriots, and they agreed to visit New Orleans, with their young charge. Besides James, wanted to meet Kevin, as the two had corresponded over the past decade about horses and veterinarian skills.

Nico wasn’t sure who had been more nervous: Horatio, Speed, or Thomas.

The moment he had laid eyes on the boy, he had to stop himself from laughing. Bradley Herriot was a spitting image of Timothy Quinn. Everything about him was classic Speed. Dark unruly hair, inquisitive nature, and already snarky at six years old.

Thomas’ eyes had gone wide when he saw the boy, holding back his own laughter. Brass snorted, and Warrick was sure he would’ve lost bets on that particular partentage if money was on the line.

The Herriots had begun to introduce Brad to Speed, only for Thomas to step in, and inform them that Horatio was the father. They had done a double take between Speed and Brad, before glancing from Thomas to Nicolaus.

Brad ignored all of them and looked at Horatio, who had taken off his sunglasses and squatted down to the kids level. The two stared at each other, not saying much. Brad smirked and shrugged, then held out his hand.

‘Bradley Herriot.’

‘Horatio Caine.’ He took the offered hand, giving the boy a smile. ‘It’s a pleasure to get to meet you, Bradley or do you prefer Brad?’

‘Either is good.’ He shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets, only for Hellen to admonish him. He sighed and pulled his hands back out. ‘How come I look like the other guy?’

‘Do you know what DNA is?’ Horatio used the tone he saved for kids at crime scenes, making them more at ease. Brad frowned and shook his head. ‘All of us are made of strands of DNA, it’s where our characteristics come from, like my red hair and your black.’

‘It’s what makes us…us?’

‘Yes and through family lines those DNA characteristics can be passed on and shared. Your mother has family ties to Timothy’s, which is how you can look like him.’

‘So you’re my uncle?’ He looked directly up at Speed, who blinked owlishly. He had always been okay with kids, not great like his Papa, it took him longer to find a level he could relate to them.

But at this moment, Brad was so like him, he couldn’t help but like the kid.

Timothy knelt next to Horatio. ‘Kinda, but how about you just call me Speed.’

‘And you’re his Mate?’ Brad nodded his head towards Horatio.

‘Yes.’

‘Cool’ Brad shrugged again, and then smiled at Horatio. ‘Mom and dad said you have alligators here, can I see one?’

Nicolaus bit back the snort, so like his boy. ‘You know Allie might be around here somewhere. She likes to lay out in the sun.’

‘Is that safe?’ Hellen asked in that worried tone all parents are gifted with. ‘Bradley is used to farm animals, but alligators are a whole different creature.’

‘We make sure Allie is well fed, she’s pretty harmless.’ Thomas assured her, the large alligator had made Sylum her home from the day they arrived. The only reason they even knew Allie was a girl, was the surprise of alligator hatchlings one year.

‘Allie is cool!’

Brad turned to see a young girl running down the stairs, straight into the Clan Leader’s arms. His parents had introduced him, but he had been more focused on the redhead with the very blue eyes. He had known that despite the fact he looked like the other one the redhead was his father, he had that look about him, one Bradley trusted.

‘Hi.’

‘I’m Cassie.’ She squirmed out of the arms holding her, and held out her hand. ‘I live here, sort of. Are you coming to live here?’

‘No. I live in England.’

‘Cool! I used to live in Las Vegas, but then moved here after my parents died. He saved me.’ She smiled at Nico, who gave her a bright smile in return. ‘So I live here with my foster soon to be adopted parents Lara and Indy.’

‘My parents are adopted, too.’ He glanced at the Herriots who smiled just as bright at him. ‘I just met my dad.’

Cassie glanced over to Speed, who pointed at Horatio. She shrugged. ‘Horatio’s cool. He helps people like Nick. Speed’s cool also, he has a motorcycle. Indy won’t let me ride it, Lara says I can when I get older.’

‘Honey we agreed not to say that in public.’ Lara ignored Indy’s glare, getting everyone else to laugh, the last of the tension fading away.

Cassie took Brad’s hand. ‘Come on, I’ll show you Allie. Just don’t get too close, she can be grumpy in the morning, a lot like Indy.’

Brad nodded and the two kids were gone.

‘You know if I didn’t know any better, I would’ve sworn you and Horatio had a kid.’ Tony glanced at his brother, a big smile on his face.

‘I don’t have the hips.’ Horatio deadpanned, getting everyone to laugh.

‘Bro, that is Ellis’ finally fuck you.’ Tony patted Speed on the shoulder. ‘Though he seems like a good kid, despite the fact that he’ll have your ugly mug.’

Speed glared at Tony, who just gave him a beaming smile.

‘Brad’s very smart, likes to read, loves music, but can be a bit … ‘ James paused trying to fight the words.

‘Snarky know-it-all?’ Nico asked with a perfectly straight face. ‘I’m familiar with it.’

James chuckled lightly. ‘He’s a very good kid.’ He hesitated slightly, not sure how to bring up. Bradley was a blessing, especially as they had never had children of their own. They didn’t want to get in the way of father and son bonding, yet he was their son. ‘I do understand you’re his father…’

Horatio held up his hand understanding James’ hesitation and worries. ‘I don’t plan on taking him from you. My life, the job I do, and the responsibilities I have aren’t designed for kids. He’s happy with you, and taking him away from what he knows would be wrong. I just would like to spend time with him, get to know him, be a father. I’m sure having extra parents, uncles isn’t necessarily a bad thing.’

Hellen visibly relaxed at his words. ‘That we can do. We can arrange time outside his school, and you are always welcome to visit him in England.’

As James wandered off to find Kevin, Hellen pulled out the photo album to show Horatio and Speed, who was listening as intently as his Mate.

Nico made his way onto the porch, watching as Cassie explained everything about alligators, then pointed out the Peacocks, and more importantly the baby Peacocks. After he had lost the first set during the raid on the Manor, Massarni had sent four males and 2 females in their stead. Nico had gotten an earful of bitching from everyone from the squawking the males made, that was until the babies were born, and he never saw so many deadly Hunters coo at the tiny creatures, determined to keep predators away.

‘Those two act like they’ve been best friends for years.’ Thomas observed from his spot next to Nico.

‘Noticed that.’ He glanced at him, then focused back on the kids. ‘They get each other in ways most kids won’t.’

‘It would be good for both of them. Kids growing up within a Vampire Clan can be difficult.’

‘Not as if we’re speaking from experience or anything.’ The two laughed and groaned. ‘I think we’ve all learned a few lessons.’

‘Yes.’ Thomas glanced back into the house to see Speed asking as many questions as Horatio, as they went through the photos. ‘Yes indeed, sir.’

Since then the two had been inseparable.

They send letters back and forth. Talk on the phone at least once a week. Send packages and trinkets from their adventures. There was no doubt the two kids were connected on levels, most adults wouldn’t understand.

When the time comes, as they get older, both sets of parents will end up having a sit down conversations with the two, but for now everyone is letting them enjoy being friends.

“While Cassie has Thomas distracted.” Lara took Hilary’s arm and headed for the Manor. “Tell me everything? Most importantly Croft Manor is standing right? And who is going to watch over my beloved ancestral home?”

He watched as Hilary relaxed, having someone familiar to talk to, in an unfamiliar place. Nico stepped backwards as Cassie shifted unexpectedly, he grabbed the girl and set her down as she ran over to Thomas to take whatever he had in his hands. With a polite thank you she ran off towards the Manor, prize claimed.

“Oh yeah those two are so Mates.” Tony shook his head at the squeals the little one made.

“Speaking of, where’s yours?” Nico asked as they helped Thomas with the rest of the bags, despite the Caretakers grumbling. They compromised by setting them on the porch so Thomas could deal with them in an appropriate fashion.

“Back in DC, we had a case that just couldn’t be left alone, but wasn’t pending enough I had to be there.” Tony followed his Papa into the kitchen, where they raided the cookie jar, as Cook set down cups of coffee. They were sooned joined by Speed, who had a few packages to take back with him to Miami for Horatio. “Between Abby’s upcoming wedding, and Kate’s looming engagement, I needed to step away and Jethro got it.”

“I honestly thought Ichabod would’ve Turned her by now, and the fact he hasn’t means he’s more of a moron than you two.” Nico glared at his two kids, who had a sudden fascination with the ceiling.

“She wants the romantic setting.” Tony shrugged, sipping his coffee. He could understand it, but he also knew how itchy he was being close to Jethro, and not able to have him. He admired Ichabod’s patience, especially considering the family line he was from. “Which I think we all get, and believe me I’ve tried to talk to her, even told her a few things of my past and how stupid I really was not telling Jethro, she won’t have it. The only saving grace, Ichabod hasn’t bit her, and they aren’t sleeping together.”

“Her wedding night is going to suck.” Speed snorted at his own innuendo. “And not in a good way, she’s healthy and it’s not going to be pleasant. It wasn’t for Horatio, not really.”

“Nor Jethro.”

“At least he was in the shower at the time.” Speed teased his sister, who grinned non-repentant. “How’s the wedding plans going?”

“My bank account is taking a few hits.” Nico observed them, noticing how more relaxed and attuned they were with each other. A lot had changed since Richeliue attacked the manor, and old secrets came out into the open.

After Gil’s Turning, a nightmare situation that Nico was still dealing with, he had found himself in the kitchen looking for some coffee and scotch. Evy had gotten everything handled fitting her status of Second-in-Command of the Medjai. After Gil came back from the hospital, she got him settled back in his room tucked in with Greg. Harvey had been resettled into one of the underground apartments, and she tied her own Mate to the bed to have a discussion with her about old secrets.

He was still coming to terms that he had a sister, and even more importantly that it was Harold.

Harold, who he sired with Arthur so many centuries ago.

Harold, who was Mated to his beloved Meridia, a strapping Welshman who could destroy towns and has, for looking at his Mate the wrong way.

Harold, who Nick had no idea where he was, or what he was doing.

Harold, who was dearly missed at the moment. He had tried to meditate on his Bonds with both of them, but he couldn’t calm his mind after everything that had happened. He made a note to find out where John was, even if he had to call Grant to get the information.

Warrick settled next to him, dropping a bottle of rum on the table. His pirate got it perfectly. He leaned against the strong shoulder, taking comfort from his Mate, when their tiny bubble of quiet was invaded by Tony, who fixed a cup of coffee and poured a bit of rum in his, followed soon by Speed who laid his head on the table and groaned.

Tony lifted his cup in a salute. ‘Well this has been a fun vacation.’

‘Fuck you.’ Speed muttered into the table, before lifting his head and grabbing his own drink. ‘Next time we get together, can we not bring the psychotic Frenchman …’ He glanced at Tony. ‘… present company withstanding.’

‘I’m too tired to argue with you.’ Tony leaned his head on his hand, resting his elbows on the table. ‘Ducky is recovering well, he’s resting in his apartment.’

‘Considering Jethro was turned less than a week, I’ll let this situation pass, but you might want to inform him about Turning someone without Consent.’

‘Rich coming from you, considering … ‘ He was tackled by Speed, who placed his hand around his sister’s mouth, and whispered in his ear what papa had told him on the phone just before his and Horatio’s Mating. Tony’s eyes went wide, he blinked a few times, then stared at Nico who was watching the situation with humor.

Warrick rolled his eyes. ‘Your kids are the smartest dumbasses I ever met. I had a heartbeat when he left my ship, as did Brass.’

Speed let go of Tony, who they could tell was doing that thing most vampires have a tendency to do when dealing with a long history. He got that faraway look, as if he were going through an internal catalog trying to find a specific moment, and re-watch the memory.

Tony then promptly groaned, his head hit the table. ‘That actually explains the nine month pity party, and suddenly way more understandable.’ He sat up and looked at both of them. ‘Why did you let us believe it otherwise?’

‘Once the rumor got started, it was easier to let the Vampire Community believe what they wanted, no matter what I said, they wouldn’t believe me.’ Nico shrugged, curling into Warrick, who kissed the top of his head. ‘I knew one day you would figure it out, didn’t expect it to take two hundred years.’

‘God we’re morons.’ Tony looked at Speed, who snorted but agreed. ‘So who Turned you?’ He asked Warrick, who only smiled in response.

Thomas and Brass joined them not soon after, Brass ribbing the kids for being dumbasses, and Thomas just giving them his typical disapproving look. They six enjoyed the quiet moment, remembering where it all began.

“And where is Horatio?” Nico asked his boy.

“The same as Jethro.” He shrugged and snacked on a cookie. “Brad is coming to Miami for Thanksgiving, he’s having a complete freakout moment. After we bought the new house, he’s been working on setting up a room, just not sure what to do with it. He’s likely going to call Thomas, who set up Ellis’ old room and ask for tips.” Speed paused for a moment, realizing it was one of the first times she said her name out loud without a ping of guilt.

“How did you pull that off?” Tony asked his brother with curiosity. “I know you,” he pointed at Nick, “pulled off the co-workers and report to different supervisors.”

He groaned and rolled his eyes. “Yeah the problem I ended up with Catherine.” Nick was wondering if that rum was anywhere nearby, despite the fact it was early afternoon.

“Why is that a problem?” Speed asked, eyes narrowing suspiciously. “I know Alex wants nothing to do with her, especially after she ended up leaving Peter behind that day. But she told me that Lindsay had stayed in contact with Brian and Jaime.”

“How is Alex handling her new job?” Nick asked, hoping to change the subject. He didn’t want to talk about Catherine.

“Nice distraction.” Speed gave him a look, but accepted it knowing Papa will talk when he’s ready. “She loves it, Peter loves it. It took about a year for them to wrap up all their cases, but they moved to Virginia a few months ago and took over Dawson House. Honestly, it was the best thing they could do, I’ve not seen them happier. Rumor has it, that they’re trying for a third kid. I informed them it must be named Timothy.”

“Susan and Madison?” He asked. He hadn’t had much time to meet everyone, but he could tell the young woman was out of her element, but handled it all as best she could. And with everything that had gone one over the past year, he had no idea what was going on in their lives.

“Susie has gone back to school, courtesy of scholarship from Sylum.” Speed gave him a big smile, but knew no one would mind. “She’s going for a teaching degree. Madison is happy in school, and Ray Jr. picks her up after classes, he’s such a Caine taking care of his family. Yelena helps out with watching the kids, when Susie has classes, and she does the same when Yelena works late. It works for them. There are times when they’re at our house, Madison loves the demon cat, that is Dracula.”

“And back to my question.” Tony gave Speed a look. “How did you pull off the ‘I’m shacking up with my supervisor’? At the moment I’m staying between my apartment, and his place. Kate and McGee cover for us on occasion, and it helps that Morrow is our boss, though if the rumors of Jethro’s ex taking over had come to fruition, I would’ve just quit.”

“I’ve been promoted.” Speed shrugged at the congrats from the two. “Though I’m still a CSI, I’m now Head of Forensics in the lab, which doesn’t quite make me equal to Horatio, but moved me out of his ‘supervision’. I report to the Director of the Lab. I earned it on my own merit, my papers and analysis caught the director’s attention. He thought I was more suited for the lab then field work, though I still do field work, just not as much. Doesn’t stop Calliegh from making sure my gun is clean and I’m certified.”

“Good for her.” Nico gave him a pointed look. “And how is … ”

“Don’t even ask.” Timothy gave his Papa a look. “I’m not sure you can complain about Tony and me, considering Diego fled the country and is hiding in Spain.”

“Well at least Calleigh knows about Vampires and she’s smart, she’ll take the stubborn Spaniard by the balls when she’s done with his bull.” Nico had liked the ‘Bullet Girl’ the moment she met him, considering she had to deal with him during some of the worst moments during the attack.

“We’ve got a pool going, I’m sure Warrick has odds laid out and has taken markers from most of Integridad and all of Miami.”

“That’s my pirate.” Nico beamed with pride.

“So heard you were summoned to the Council.” Tony gave his Papa a look. “It’s a bit early for your century spanking.”

“Oh don’t even start with me.” He gave his kid a pointed look. “After everything that had happened, I told him I didn’t have time to see him, that he would need to come to me, but somehow I still got summoned. He was concerned about how I was doing, and if any threat still lingered from Richelieu.”

“Do we believe there to be?” Tony asked with all seriousness.

“At this moment, no. But that didn’t get me out of the meeting.”

Nick stood in the grand hallway outside Imenand’s office and rooms. He had walked this hall many times over the centuries, and even though he had seen it more times than he could count, there was one painting that always drew his attention.

The play on the shadows had him wonder what the painter was hiding from. Imenand had never told him who the artist was, not that he needed to know. It was a piece that spoke to all, as if the one standing in front of it, was the creator or the one hiding.

‘Nico.’

Nick turned and gave Minerva a bright smile. ‘How’s my favorite Council Member?’

‘Flattery will get you cookies.’ She hugged him tight.

‘Just what I was hoping for,’ he held her close before stepping back.

‘No hugs for me?’ Warrick asked as he sauntered down the hallway. He had taken a few moments to talk with Maximus about any information on the whereabouts of Galileo.

She gave him a hug, ‘You just want the cookies.’

‘Well yeah.’

‘Dinner is almost ready, so we’ll just head over to our rooms.’ Minerva took Nick’s arm and began walking down the hallway. ‘So tell me the truth, how are you?’

‘Everything is good, calm for a change.’ Nico informed her. ‘Timothy is healing well, which has a lot to do with Horatio.’

‘He’s good for him, I’m happy that he’s finally Mated. How are Antonio and his new Mate?’ She asked.

‘Good, Jethro keeps him in line.’ Nick smirked. ‘Though they’ve got their hands full with Abby.’

‘Your children have finally come home.’ She smiled up at him.

‘Still waiting on one.’ He sighed slightly. ‘Theo is being elusive.’

‘I’ve learned something about the Meridius line,’ Minerva stopped at the door to their personal rooms. ‘They always come home.’

‘Minerva are you keeping Nico all to yourself?’ Imenand stepped up to the door and smiled brightly at his guests. ‘Nico, Warrick come in, sit down, we’ve got a wonderful traditional Roman meal set out.’

Nick inhaled the smell of spices and fresh meats. ‘Smells good.’

‘Man I’m hungry.’ Warrick said. ‘Imenand it’s an honor to see you again, and thank you for inviting us for dinner, it’s a step above Nico’s century spanking.’

Imenand chuckled as he ushered them in. ‘This was a personal meeting between friends, not Council to Clan Leader.’ He patted Nico on the shoulder. ‘I made sure certain members would be away, just to ease the visit.’

‘Thank you, but you know I really don’t care if she gives me attitude.’

‘There’s been some interesting discussion this past year, especially with the attack on your home, and the evidence you sent us about Russia. Alexander has been on a rampage in Russia, and poor Marc has been dealing with the Council.’

‘I’m sure that went as well as I think.’ Nico settled down at the table, smiling at the dishes laid out.

‘Enough of gossip and drama.’ Minerva glared at her husband. ‘Everyone settle in.’

‘Oh you put out the nice china and silver, I feel special.’ Warrick settled next to Nick, tempted to snitch a piece just because he can.

‘You’re one pirate I trust enough not to hide the good china and silver.’ He smirked as he sat at the head of the table, knowing full well what Warrick was thinking.

‘So does that mean you hide the silver from Attila?’ Nico asked, placing the napkin on his lap.

‘Everyday,’ Imenad laughed. ‘So everything calming down at home?’

‘Vegas or New Orleans?’ Nick asked.

‘The Manor first.’

‘The Manor is on it’s way back to its original glory,’ he informed them. ‘Thomas is still in England at the moment, Artemus is taking care of the Manor, and is determined to have it finished before Thomas comes home.’

Imenand smiled, ‘Marek commented that Antonio was in France for a while.’

‘He took Jethro to see the Chateau,’ Warrick added. ‘Introduce him to Morticia and Gomez, explaining what they do.’

‘And Timothy is doing much better than the last I saw him,’ Imenaned frowned slightly. ‘Thank the gods that his Lord returned when he did.’

‘There’s no use dwelling on what ifs,’ Minerva laid a hand on his arm. ‘Your family is healthy, growing, and everything is calm. Let’s celebrate that.’

‘Yes we must toast,’ he lifted up his wine glass. ‘To family and prosperity.’

The others followed the toast and sipped their wine. Nico put his glass down and gave the old man a pointed look. ‘Okay, why have you called me here?’

‘I can’t just have dinner with a Clan Leader and his Mate?’

‘No.’ Nico eyed him.

‘Damn suspicious Meridius genes.’ He shook his head. ‘I actually wanted to talk to you about a few things. One of them is the latest situation in Rome.’

‘Has there been any sightings of Galileo?’ Nico asked, instantly going into General mode. ‘Or his Mate?’

‘None.’ Imenand shook his head. ‘Even our Man in the Shadows has not seen him, though as much as he hasn’t said every time he looks at me, I can hear his voice telling me ‘Should have let me kill him’.’

‘Well I’m sure he will get his chance at Ceaser Borgia soon enough.’ Nico sipped his wine. ‘How far do you think the betrayal goes?’

‘Farther than I would care to admit.’ The Council Leader admitted. ‘We’re doing our own investigations, how about you?’

‘Security has gone up tremendously around the Manor.’ He informed him. Though had to wonder when he would find his spy to catch a spy, as Pearly had predicted.

‘We’re starting our own investigations.’ Warrick added. ‘We have an advantage from our jobs and we’re using it.’

‘I have no doubt that you have your situation at home under control.’ Imenand sat back in his own chair. ‘Now after everything that has transpired, I’m wondering how you would feel about leaving the Clan to Tony…’

‘What?’ Nick and Warrick both sat up in their seats.

He held up his hands. ‘Now wait before jumping to conclusions. I was just wondering how you would like to work with the Council?’

‘There’s too much going on at Sylum and I’ve got most of my family nearby. I’m not ready nor interested in moving here to Geneva.’ Nick easily told him. ‘Besides you and I know, until you deal with Boudicca, having more Romans here is just going to make things worse.’

Imenand nodded, then smiled as he picked up his wine glass again and took a sip. ‘I figured as much, but had to ask. You’re a valuable asset, and you’re not the only one I’ve asked. King Arthur gave me the same answer, with a few flowery choice words.’

Nico laughed, ‘I’m sure he did.’

“Boudicca isn’t that bad.” Tony wasn’t sure why Nico had always sighed or rolled his eyes when the Council Member was mentioned.

“You’re not Roman.” Nico gave Tony a pointed look. “Next time we have a meeting at the Council, just watch how she reacts to particular members.”

“By the way I talked to other Clan Advisors, and you’re the only one that gets called in front of the Council to be ‘checked on’.” Speed gave his Papa a look. “Scrulock has met Imenand once, and has never been to Geneva. I think Alexander is the only other one called in, mainly to do with the Kin Clans.”

“Interesting that I’m the only Roman.”

“La Croix is Roman.” Tony pointed out, to make his point.

“I don’t like that weasley bastard, but ask him how many times a Council Hunter shows up at his Clan to check on things, or the reports he has to send. Especially after taking in Teabing.” Nico gave his Second-in-Command a look. “And before you mention Romulus there’s a reason he refuses to go to the Council, and sends Graccus who for an ancestor of Cadfael curses a lot when he has to go.” That shut both of them up. “It’s always been that way, but most of the time I never had to deal with the Council, it wasn’t until I came a Clan Leader that … ” He waved his hand around ” … this became more intense. Imenand knows it’s an issue, and is starting to realize that with the world getting smaller it’s becoming a bigger issue.”

“I guess we’ve never gotten involved with VampirePolitics.” Tony leaned back in the kitchen table chair he was sitting in. “And that is my fault, for not being the Second you needed.” It was his turn to hold up his hand. “I haven’t and you know it, not in the past few decades. And since the turn of the century we’ve all been disjointed.”

“And I know I’m responsible for that.” Speed gave them a small smile.

The fight was small, but the impact had been huge. It was what led them to living on opposite sides of the country.

Speed discovered that Ellis had moved out of DC, and down to Miami.

‘For my sanity leave her alone.’ Nico argued with his son about moving to Miami. ‘She’s a grown woman, who has been trained by some of the best Hunters in this Clan, and you, I might add. She can take care of herself.’

‘Is it a crime to want to take care of my family.’ Speed argued back, pissed that no one was seeing his point. Ellis was a hot head and found trouble easily, she needed back up.

‘No it’s not. But you do realize we have Clan Members in Miami who can keep an eye on her, you don’t need to hover!’ He tried to make his point. If Speed kept this up, Ellis would flee the country, and only the gods would know where.

‘Armando is not really Hunter material, now is he … dad.’

‘I wouldn’t write off the Birdcage, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to fuck with Drag Queens.’ Warrick added from the sidelines, eyeing both of Nico’s kids. ‘Besides you forgot Martin and Michael, both damn good cops, who are scrappy enough to get into the thick of things. Let alone Ike, I wouldn’t want to cross him on a good day.’

‘How would you feel if I followed you everywhere to make sure you didn’t get into trouble?’

Speed frowned.

‘That’s what I thought. She’s you with boobs. The fact it would annoy you, should be a clear indication that it would annoy her even more.’ Nico was exasperated, his gut was telling him if Speed went to Miami to ‘look after’ Ellis, she was going to flip her ever loving mind, and the damage between them would be irreparable.

‘I just want to look after my family.’

Nico sighed, understanding exactly where he was coming from. ‘I get that. Don’t think that I don’t. Family is everything to me.’

‘Yeah well unlike you,dad, I want to actually do something. I mean you did such a good job at it, we were all killed…’

No one saw it coming. The left hook laid Speed on the floor. A snarling Razi stood over him, ‘You ever say that to your father again, I’ll make it hurt, boy.’ He gave Speed a disgusted snort, and flew up the stairs following his Mate.

‘Wow bro, that was over the line, even for you.’ Tony walked away, heading for the kitchen area.

When Speed looked up, all he got was a deadly glare from Thomas, then a polite. ‘I suggest you pack your bags and leave, if you’re so determined to look after your family.’

They didn’t speak for months after that, when he had shown up at the Manor on Boxing Day, he’d been surprised Nick wasn’t there. When he asked Thomas, he discovered Nick was in New York helping Lennie with an International Diplomatic issue. So he showed up to give his Papa the wren feather, though that year he should’ve given him one from a swan.

It wasn’t until he found Horatio, and then his shooting, that the two truly started talking again. He didn’t blame himself for Richelieu’s attack but he knew some of Nico’s distractions those past years were some of his doing.

Though he would admit his fault, he still blamed Ellis for just being that much of a pain in the ass, hot head who never fucking listened, even to her death.

Well despite all of it, going to Miami was a blessing, he found Horatio.

Tony punched Speed in the shoulder, giving him a grin. “We’re too old to dwell on our stupid mistakes, if we did we’d be here for centuries going over yours.”

Timothy snorted, but couldn’t help the laugh. “Between the three of us. ”

“The only one who hasn’t made stupid mistakes, would be Thomas.” Tony smiled at the Caretaker who walked into the kitchen, with Hilary in tow.

“I’m here aren’t I?”

“Oh!” Speed blinked at him, then started laughing hysterically, followed by Tony and even Nico had lost some decorum. After a few moments, the room quieted back down, everyone feeling more relaxed. “By the way, why are we sitting in the kitchen catching up like a bunch of old gossiping hens?”

“Because it’s been over a year since the three of us sat down to chat, and I’m not talking about Papa to kids, but as in Clan Leader, Second, and Advisor.” Nico wiped away a few tears, smiling up at Thomas who squeezed his shoulder.

“It hasn’t been that long.” Timothy frowned as he thought back, trying to remember when they had sat down officially to discuss Clan business. Him and Nico had talked on the plane to Rome, but that was specific to that situation, and Tony wasn’t involved. “We were here last August.”

“Hurricane, and I’ll refrain from talking about the pet mercenary.” Tony pointed out, but then gave them both a look of triumph. “Christmas Eve Dinner.”

“Family, not Clan Politics.” Nico pointed out. “And then a few of us had to go back to work, just in time to come back to New Years Eve, and well…” He waved his hand around, not really wanting to go into that particular nightmare.

Tony sat back in his chair blinking slightly. “I know we’ve talked off and on, more than we had the past five years, but has it really been that long since we all sat down?”

“Disadvantage of not living here.” Nico shrugged, not liking the fact he had been out of communication with his Clan. He was having a hard time remembering when he had a full meeting of his Council that wasn’t Hurricane related.

“I do miss New Orleans.” Tony shifted again, arms resting on the table. “Jethro is not ready to move from DC or leave NCIS.”

“They do have offices in New Orleans.” Timothy stated. “I know Horatio hasn’t even thought about leaving Miami. It’s his home, and add in Ray Jr., Madison, he’s not likely leaving anytime soon.”

“We might.”

“What?” Both kids, and even Thomas got into the action. Tony and Speed fistbumped, and they gave the Caretaker an air one.

“There’s something not right, hasn’t been for a while. Gil and I found a balance, especially after finding out he had the soul of dear old dad from Egypt. But after the burial, and then the hurricane, everything has been off. Warrick and I’ve discussed it, he’s been looking into the New Orleans Forensics, and right now they’re desperate for people.”

“And you?” Speed asked, knowing Papa didn’t like being bored.

“Maybe just focus on things around here. Get back to being Nicolaus. Running around Rome, brought him out.” He glanced back at Thomas. “Though that is if you don’t mind me being underfoot.”

“This place isn’t home unless you’re here, Master Nico.” Thomas gave him a soft smile, the one that was reserved for a select few.

Nico nodded. “We’re not ready to move back yet, but it’s been on our minds.” He watched as Kevin stepped into the kitchen, a greeting on his lips as he came to a sudden stop, staring at Hilary.

There was a choked screech, and where Kevin stood was suddenly empty. The back door slammed against the porch wall, a yell from cook, and a blinking Hilary left behind.

Everyone just stared at the door, then slowly turned to look at Hilary, who was frozen to the spot. Nico shifted his chair, stood and patted Thomas on the shoulder. “You get this one, I’ll go deal with that one.”

Thomas sighed, before making sure Hilary was seated comfortably at the table, a cup of strong tea in front of him. Timothy and Tony, wasn’t sure if they wanted to laugh or pat his back in sympathy.

“Who is he?” Hilary finally asked, after he drank down half his tea.

“A snarky bastard who controls the stables with an iron fist.” Timothy answered, with a smile. “His family has been Chosen Ones since the Civil War. Kevin is loyal, dedicated, and is damn good with horses.”

Nico found Kevin in the stables, brushing down Ironhide II. “At least you didn’t go for Razi.”

“I’m not that stupid.” He glared at his Sire, though everyone thought Jim West was his papa. “Despite his size Ironhide is calm, unless you’re in trouble then the big burly bastard breaks doors, kinda like you.”

“He also despises Borgias, also like me.” Nico grabbed a bucket, filled it with oats and held it out to the small tank.

“Well there’s that going for him.” He glared at Nico for feeding him treats. “You would think the way he chomps down, that we never feed him.”

Nico patted the muscular neck of the horse. “He’s a growing boy!”

Kevin rolled his eyes. “So who is he?”

“Hilary.” He set the bucket down, and leaned against the door. “He works for Lara at her Manor, and it was recently discovered he has the soul of Thomas’ wife.”

“Great so my Mate is connected to the one person at this Manor I’m terrified of.” He leaned against Ironhide muttering about stupid Vampire Mating genes.

“I honestly don’t know too much about him, but I do know that he wouldn’t have survived Lara without some sense of humor. And from what I heard he’s smart, sarcastic, and can fight pretty well. It could be worse.”

“How?” He glanced over at his Sire.

“You could’ve Turned him in the shower.”

Kevin snorted, patting the horse’s neck. “Give me a day or two, and I’ll go say hello. I promise not to smell too much like horses, and maybe even bring a flower.”

“Roses. Go with roses.” Nico gave him a last smile. “I’m heading back to Vegas, but if you need to talk.”

“I’ll talk to Thomas.” He smirked at him. “No way I’m taking romantic advice from West, and we all know about yours and Warrick’s courting habits. I prefer less drama.”

Nico’s laughter echoed through the stables as he left, making Kevin chuckle into Ironhide’s neck. Razi kicked the stable door, glaring at him over the partian. “Fine I’ll brush you next, demanding bastard.”

An hour later, Nico found himself back at the airport saying goodbye to his kids. Thomas assured him that he would keep an eye on Kevin and Hilary, plus keep Lara away until the two get to know each other.

“We’re doing Thanksgiving at our house.” Speed looked between the two most important people in his life, outside Horatio. “I know schedules are shit, but try and come.”

“I think that’s the first time you have ever invited us to something.” Tony glanced at Nico, who suspiciously wiped his eyes. “Look at you being all domesticated. I should send Horatio a thank you note.”

“Fuck off.” Speed laughed lightly. “Lara’s bringing Cassie, so she can spend some time with Brad, but be nice to do the whole family thing.”

“I’ll be there, somehow, I’ll be there.” Nico pulled his son into his arms, holding him tightly. “I’m proud of you.”

Timothy held him for a few moments longer. “Okay I got to get to the actual normal part of the airport, not all of us can have a private jet.”

“Well dad did ask if you wanted one for Christmas, and you decided to get your cave of a shower, which cost more than a plane.” Speed glared at Tony, who only grinned.

“Unfortunately I rented mine out, so I’m on commercial also.” Tony gave his Papa a hug. “Hey I know I haven’t been there, but I am now. Call me. Even if it is to just talk or plot someone’s demise.”

Nico nodded, too emotional to say anything. He gave them one last wave, before heading up the stairs. He looked back to see them watching him, maybe just maybe after all that happened something good came out of it. He entered the plane, and headed straight for the back, he needed a nap.

***
“What do you think of these?” Abby asked, holding up pictures of flower arrangements. One picture was of a smaller centerpiece with black roses in a crystal square vase, and the second was a tall silver vase with overflowing red roses and greenery.

Tony glanced over at McGee, then both turned to Ichabod who was hiding behind a terminal of computers. Without much help they turned back to Abby and smiled. “The wedding is in six weeks, haven’t you picked the flowers already?” Tim asked.

“It’s down to these two,” She looked at them again. “I want that whole Goth, classic, turn of the nineteenth century, yet modern feel.”

Tony leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Go with the silver vase with the black flowers mixing with the blood red roses with a touch of greenery.”

She squealed and jumped in his arms, “That’s perfect!” She stepped back and looked at the other two. “You know you could learn a lesson or two.”

Ichabod leaned over and smiled at her. “My dear you could walk down the aisle in a burlap sack, carrying weeds and I would be the happiest Vampire in the world.”

Abby ran over and kissed him passionately, the chair rolling into a dark corner of the lab. Tim and Tony gave the couple a slight head tilt then turned and left the lab quickly. They stepped out into the bullpen and scooted to their desks, sitting down before Gibbs walked into the area. He paused and stared at the smirking agents.

“Do I want to know?” He asked with an impatient sigh.

“Abby. Wedding plans. Ichabod.” McGee gave as an explanation, trying to resist using hand gestures.

“Well we have a case, dead Marine on a golf course.” He paused and watched as Kate ran into the bullpen, and dropped her bags acting as if she wasn’t almost two hours late. “Do I want to know?”

“My alarm didn’t go off, and I slept late.” She brushed back her hair, trying to act casual.

“So the five carat ring on your hand has nothing to do with you being late?” Tony reached over and took her hand, whistling appreciatively. “McAllister has taste.”

Gibbs smiled softly at her. “Congratulations, Kate. You get off for this once, but next time don’t be late. Now we have a body, pack up your gear and let’s go.”

“Yes, sir!” Both Kate and Tony yelled as they turned towards the respective desks and grabbed their bags.

Jethro laughed lightly, sipping his decaf coffee. There were times he still hated Ducky for taking his coffee from him. And he didn’t care what he said, tea was just glorified hot water.

***
The two sat in the back of their favorite bistro, away from the crowds so they could talk freely. The waiter set down their sandwiches, filled their drinks, and left them alone. Tony folded the napkin in his lap, then picked at his fries, enjoying the food. Kate rolled her eyes at his antics, it was these moments she realized how easily Tony had fooled her by his playboy DiNozzo act.

“Please don’t ask when the wedding is, we haven’t even thought about it. And after the past year and a half listening to Abby, I don’t even want to talk about wedding plans.” Kate gave him a pointed look, digging into her own club sandwich.

“Elope. Run now.”

She chuckled, “his family would hunt us down.”

“Though I have to ask, and this is important. Does he know?” Tony turned very serious. “You can’t marry this guy, without letting him know your connections to us.”

“You make it sound like I’ve joined the mafia.”

“Once your family you never get out.” Tony mimicked Marlon Brando in the Godfather, making her laugh lightly. “In all seriousness, Kate, he has a right to know that you can be called upon to help at any time.”

“Yes, he knows.” She sat back in her chair, sighing slightly. “He had always wondered about the sword on my wall. I had joked that had taken out an old enemy with it, and he laughed it off. I wasn’t quite sure how to tell him I took out Rochefort, as in the bad guy from the Three Musketeers, with him came a crazed Cardinal that attacked a Southern Plantation outside New Orleans.”

“Well, when you put it like that.” He teased her slightly. “What happened?”

“We’d been talking about our future, marriage, kids, the whole works. I knew I had to tell him that I actually did kill Rochefort, and that the Tony DiNozzo he’d met was really a Templar Knight, not the playboy goof he pretends to be. I could tell he had suspicions I was keeping things from him, and that how I talked about you didn’t mesh with the ‘playboy’ image.” She reached forward and grabbed her drink to take a few sips. “I woke up last night from a nightmare. It was of Rochefort and Ari, that they had teamed up and had me trapped. I screamed out for you.”

“Oh that didn’t go over well.” Tony leaned back in his own chair, letting Kate talk.

“No man likes it, even if it’s innocent persay, when their girlfriend calls out another man’s name. Especially in bed.” She gave him a look, indicating not to make some snarky comment. “I was rambling and he misunderstood half of what I was saying, and the next minute I know we’re arguing and he’s accusing me of having an affair with you…”

Kate actually felt her world screech to a halt. Practically heard that long scratch across the record, as what Thomas had said sunk in.

She was standing in the middle of the bedroom staring at the man she had fallen in love with. He had been a suspect in their investigation of his brother’s muder. She never should’ve gotten involved with him, but after he was cleared she accepted his second dinner invite, that time they got desert.

She wanted to spend her life with him. Wanted kids. For the first time in her life she had met someone, who got her and still wanted to be with her.

‘You think I’m sleeping with Tony?’ She blinked a few times, and then lost it.

The laughter started off as a hiccup, until she was leaning against the wall holding her stomach as tears ran down her face, as she desperately tried to get air.

‘Thomas. I love you. I want to have kids with you. But there are times you are an idiot. Tony is so madly in love with Jethro, and Jethro with him. To the point Gibbs would kill me if I even took a second glance at Tony’s ass. Which I haven’t, but it is a nice ass, don’t tell him I said that.’

He blinked a few times at his girlfriend. Usually when someone accused someone of having an affair, laughter wasn’t the normal response.

‘Then why did you call his name out.’

‘Not sexually!’ Her nose scrunched at the thought. ‘We have an old connection, and I trust him. I know I’ve made him out to be a playboy idiot, but Tony is really not. He’s my friend, my brother essentially. I trust him with my life, your life, hell our future kids lives.’

Thomas reached out and took her hand leading her back to the bed, where they both sat on the edge. ‘Tell me what you have been hiding.’

‘The sword.’ He nodded, always curious how someone like Kate had a large broadsword on her wall, next to a beautiful painting of a Southern Plantation. The two images never mixed. ‘I know you thought I was joking about killing someone with it, but I did. His name was Rochefort, as in the Cardinal Guard from The Three Musketeers. Except he was real, and worked for Cardinal Richelieu. Before you think about calling the nearest asylum, listen to what I have to say.’

She went on to explain about Vampires, the fact that Tony was a Templar Knight, and Jethro was his Mate. She described Sylum Manor, and how she met a Roman General, a Pirate, and a snarky Irishman. Talked about how souls roamed the earth, gravitating towards those they love, how Tony had lost Jethro nine times. How Rochefort had killed her in front of Tony back in France during the 17th Century. And when he came after her, during the attack she got her revenge.

‘He saved my life.’ She squeezed Thomas’ hand as she told the story. ‘We were chasing down a known terrorist, by the name of Ari. Who actually was a Vampire, and Tony has issues with him since the Crusades. We had just stopped a potential terrorist attack, and were celebrating so to speak, when suddenly Tony shoved me behind him to the ground, he jerked backwards as a bullet ripped across his shoulder – right where my head would’ve been. Ari was taking the kill shot, his target the only human in the group. From what Tony has told me, Ari is officially wanted by Sylum for the attack, but the bastard has disappeared.’

‘Next time I see him, I’m likely to kiss him.’

‘Don’t Jethro will attack, it’s not pretty.’ She smiled at him, wiping her own tears away. ‘So what I’m trying to say is this, Vampires are real and I work with them. I protect them as they protect me. They’ll watch over my kids, grandkids etc. And now you’re a part of it, so if this isn’t what you signed up for.’

‘Marry me.’ He moved off the bed and towards his sock drawer and pulled out a black box. ‘I’ve had it for a while. Marry me?’

Tony glanced down at the ring. “That’s so romantic.”

“Oh shut up.”

“It is. He proposed at the most emotional moment, making it real. Not some hyped up overly romantic balloon ride or something. That was a very real moment, and he knew he wanted to be with you for life.”

“I’m glad you approve.” She rolled her eyes, but sat back up to eat her food. “So yes he knows.”

“Good, cause I wasn’t going to tell you Jethro is stopping by his office to say hello.”

“No!” She glared at him, then realized he wasn’t kidding. She grabbed her phone from her purse, dialing Jethro’s number and got voicemail. “Jethro! You don’t get to do this. You bastard.”

Tony smirked as he ate his sandwich.

***
Jethro chuckled at the five voicemails from Kate, as he made his way back to Tony’s home. He really wished the two of them could live together, but he was too selfish to give up Tony to his own team. He wanted his Mate near him and didn’t trust anyone else to watch his back. Even thought about retiring, but knew he wasn’t ready, so they figured out how to make it work.

When the second B for bastard was in full force, Jethro went home and worked on his boat. Tony knew how to read him, before they were Mates, and was much better at it now. The days it was too much for Tony, he stopped at the National Cathedral, then had a quiet night at home, usually in prayer.

They both understood the need for those moments.

After a while, they just figured out which days to show up at each other’s homes. At times Tony would do his Rosary while Jethro sanded his boat, it took him a while to realize that he started following the rhythm of the prayer. Other times Jethro would just sit quietly watching Tony at his altar, though he kinda missed the two little doxens who would sit next to him and do their own doggie prayers.

Leroy Jethro Gibss wasn’t a religious man.

But he believed in Tony and his Faith.

When he discovered Jen was on the forefront to take over NCIS, it was a rare moment he used every connection he had to make sure that didn’t happen. She knew him well, and would pick up on his protective streak on Tony, and make something of it.

Tom Morrow had glared at him for weeks, for ruining his retirement plans. He promised him five years, by that time Jethro figured they would be settled and ready to deal with the next section of their lives. But right now, Jethro needed NCIS, his team, and the familiarity as he adjusted to the Vampire world.

Something normal in the midst of the paranormal.

It helped that he talked to Horatio weekly, and after the Hurricane he started developing a relationship with Mac Taylor.

Semper Fi.

Marines to the end.

As Nico’s War Counsel, he actually pulled out his old military war histories, only to toss them out the door when he discovered Alexander the Great lived in Greece, while General’s Grant and Sherman were in Afghanistan.

After Ari had tried to kill Kate, he realized that he needed more training. There weren’t many Hunters in the DC area, so he suggested going to New York to work with Blade and Hannibal, when Tony tossed him a sword then proceeded to flatten his ass. It was hot and embarrassing all at the same time.

‘You don’t need a Hunter. I’m a Templar Knight trained in the art of war. I’ve also seen more wars, than are written in the Art of War.’ He positioned the tip down, then crossed himself before giving his Mate an evil smirk. ‘I’ve trained with some of the most devious bastards on the planet, lived in Sherwood Forest as one of Robin’s Merry Men, fought at Agincourt, and got my ass handed to me by a Fencing Master.’

Jethro picked himself off the ground, gave his Mate a slight bow. ‘Teach me.’

He learned something new about Tony, he was worse than his Drill Sergeant, but he learned. Tony taught him different styles of fighting with all types of swords. Through each of these training sessions, he could see Tony standing taller, his smile became less goof and more content. He was seeing the Templar Knight, and as far as Jethro was concerned, he was beautiful.

McGee joined them a few times. The Scotsman was much better with short swords, knives and daggers. Jethro was impressed by his use of a Dirk, that was one wicked blade. The one time Kate joined in, she brought her own sword and let Tony show how it’s supposed to be handled, beside the fact it was technically too big for her.

Once he became more confident fighting as a Vampire, he needed to learn more about the community itself, especially those who held his similar positions in other Clans. He had read through all of Lenny’s notes, started making up his own lists and stopped smirking like a four year old every time he talked to some famous historical general.

At least Jethro never felt alone in his silent flailing, he knew Horaito was going through similar moments as he built his own network with the other Clan’s Head of Security.

‘I’ve never met so many historical, mythological people in my life.’

Jethro popped a beer and settled onto Tony’s couch as he had his weekly talks on the phone with Horatio. Their talks were never on the same day or time, but they always made sure to connect. Even if it was a quick, how are you handling the crazy world of Vampires this week?

‘I actually had a conversation with Ares, Odysseus, Perciles, and Faramir. Which if that wasn’t surreal enough, the next set of talks was with John Chard, Elliot Ness, and Pappy Boyington, and a few historical people I never knew about. Though I’ve learned a lot about Moorish Spain from Pedro and Carl von Clausewitz is someone I wouldn’t mess with. Borodin found talking to an American Marine humorous, but was really informative about the investigation in Russia about Rochefort and Richelieu. He laughed when I told him Kate took out Rochefort, stating he was going to send her some Russia Vodka. The conversation with Henry V was fun, considering my Mate was at Agincourt. And I’m not sure which was weirder: finding out there really is a Horatio from Hamlet or the fact Tony talks to Hamlet all the time as he’s Alexander the Great’s Second in Command. Now that’s something you wouldn’t say every day. Mac warned me that most of the members from Shogun are insane, and Liang lives up to the reputation, though if you ask me Martha McCandles is the scariest of the group. That woman has to deal with her husband and sons, and a group of men who think they know how to rule the world. I like Garibaldi, we got each other instantly, and Luther sent me a laptop that I’m not sure what to do with. I’m pretty sure I would have no problem arresting Nina, and Draco hasn’t stopped laughing since I told him I had no idea who the hell Harry Potter was, and why it mattered.’

Horatio’s chuckle came over the phone. ‘Are you done?’

‘I haven’t even started, but yeah at the moment I’m so done.’ He leaned his head against the couch. ‘I’m a Marine, Horatio, not a historical general who fought in famous battles. I’m working with Henry V and Ares, who was the God of War. How do I even begin to do this job?’

‘I raided Speed’s library.’

‘Tony doesn’t have a library. I mean he has a few books, but nothing like the library in New Orleans that I got a glimpse of. It’s likely due to his dyslexia, he’s surrounded himself with art, tactile and beautiful things. I’m actually sitting in his apartment, waiting for him to get home. He’s talking to Evy, who I had no idea was the Second in Command of the Medjai, and the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh. This is my life now. I don’t talk about suspects, or the latest baseball game, no I find out King Tut has a jewelry line for men, and Tony has a lot of his pieces.’

‘What’s he talking to Evy for?’

‘Ari.’ He understood Horatio’s growl. ‘They have some of their Hunters out looking for him, you know Aragorn and Boromir cause that isn’t a mind fuck. So far he’s disappeared.’

‘Do you know how many times I’ve heard that.’

‘Heard what?’ Jethro sat up, noticing the tone in his friend’s voice.

‘They just disappear. Like vanish off the face of the planet. Where the hell are these Rogues hiding?’ Horatio sounded exasperated. ‘I’ve got notes, maps and a corkboard with string and at one point every known bad guy just poofs.’

‘Russia? It’s a vast country and we know Richeliue and Rochefort built an army there.’ He stood and headed for the room Tony had given him for an office. They agreed to leave all Clan related materials at Tony’s as the house had better security. He set his beer down and pulled open the laptop Luther had sent, he had to admit it was well encrypted and made his work one look pathetic. He had also discovered it had connections to a variety of government databases, including NCIS.

‘I talked to Yevgeniy Onegin, he knows Russia and what everyone is up to. The man works through the old families and knows the ins and outs of the Kremlin. He says he works with Napoleon Solo and Illya … I believe him. He has no idea who got Richelieu the land or the money, and he’s pissed. He mentioned a Nikoli was out hunting, but I have no idea who that is.’

‘Look at us working with the Russians.’

Horatio laughed openly. ‘Well I knew this job was going to be weird when I ended up on an hour long conversation with Wilhelm Grimm, yes that Grimm, as in the Grimm Brothers.’

‘Our lives are weird.’

‘Well you get Elliot Ness, I get his Mate Malone, who is full of great information. Benedick in Spain, is nothing you would expect, but knows his stuff and made sure I contacted Javert, when I told him I had already met the Inspector he laughed and said ‘well you must be okay if you’re still alive’.’

Jethro chuckled. ‘Javert despite being the ‘singing inspector’ is someone I wouldn’t want to cross in a light alley let alone a dark one.’

‘Half the time I’m dealing with people who have lived on this earth for centuries, and a few for millennia. Lucius fought with Julius Caesar, and Nearchus worked with Alexander the Great. I’m having moments of why am I doing this job? Though Brian, totally gets where I’m coming from, and told me McGarret was actually really good about feeling out the ‘older guys’ as he put it.’

‘I’m pushing fifty, have an honorable career with the Marines and NCIS, and I feel like a baby Marine who has no idea how to pack my bag before camp.’

‘Why Nico gave us these jobs, I have no idea.’

‘I think he hates us.’

‘No we handle his kids for him, he loves us.’ Horatio deadpanned, making Jethro laugh out loud. ‘He sees something in us, and we’re both too stubborn to say no and will do our damndest to make sure it’s done right, even if that means taking meetings with Aragorn and Jason Bourne of all people.’

‘That’s the weird thing, if it’s not the oh did we mention Arthur Pendragon is actually King Arthur of Camelot, it’s what do you mean that character from that movie is real.’

‘Don’t get McClane started.’ Horatio sighed, Jethro could hear him leaned back in his chair, likely as exhausted as he was. ‘Hugh says Arthur isn’t all that, and that Galahad aka Harry Potter just so you know, is not the sweetest thing everyone makes him out to be. ‘Holy, yes. Innocent, fuck no.’ His exact words.’

‘I need to raid Speed’s library.’

‘Go ahead everyone does.’

And he had done just that, well he had Horatio raid it and mail him the books. At the moment he acquired the first Harry Potter book, a roman military history book, one on Alexander the Great, and the history of the Samurai. Tony smiled when he saw the stack on his desk, gave him a quick kiss and set a book on the Crusades on top of the pile.

While reading he would listen to Tony tell him about being a true Templar Knight, and how the name and myth of them today are not the reality. He could tell there was more to the story, but the one thing he had started to learn was the fact he had time.

He had always felt at home in the Marine Corps because he was part of something bigger. Now as a Vampire, part of the main structure of the largest Clan in the world – he was part of something even larger and he for once in his life felt at home outside the Corps.

He heard the door open, keys landing in the bowl, gun placed into the safe. Shoes were slipped off and put away in the closet. Soft steps on the stairs, and in no time Tony looked into the office smiling softly at Jethro. “Kate’s going to be on a rampage tomorrow.”

“I’m sure she will, but it was our duty to have a conversation with the guy. It’s one thing to marry our co-worker, it’s another to be welcomed into a world that he could potentially hurt.”

“How did the meeting go?” Tony leaned against the door.

“I congratulated him, and then told him if he fucks with Kate, you’ll kill him in her honor. If he fucks with you, I’ll bury him. And if he even tries to fuck with the Clan, I’ll introduce him to the Roman.” Jethro smirked wickedly.

Tony made his way across the room, climbing into Jethro’s lap. “I am so turned on right now.” Jethro pulled him down into a heated kiss, hands pulling out the tucked in shirt to get his hands on soft skin.

Clothes ended up on the floor as they became lost in each other. Jethro’s hands gripped Tony’s hips as he slid down onto his hard cock, sighing with pleasure as he was filled. He took a few moments, before Tony sat up, then thrust down until he found the rhythm he wanted.

Jethro watched in awe. Tony’s head was thrown back, hair starting to curl damp with sweat, eyes closed, mouth open as he panted and groaned with each movement. He gripped the slim hips and held them still as he thrust upwards going just a bit deeper each time. Just when he knew they were both on the brink, he pulled Tony closer and bit down on his neck, sending them both over the edge.

Tony slumped against him completely spent.

Jethro enjoyed him like this completely open and vulnerable in his arms, trusting Jethro to take care of him. He kissed the top of his head, and grabbed the nearby blanket and wrapped around the both of them. They’ll likely be sore in the morning, at the awkward positions, but he didn’t care. At least they won’t be sticky, advantage of really hot Vampire sex.

***
“Did I miss much?” Tony asked as he made his way to the sofa where Kate was waiting. The traffic to get out from DC to Alexandria had been worse than he anticipated, and then he ended up parking three blocks from ‘The Bridal Boutique’. It was a small shop in the middle of downtown Alexandria, and specialized in non standard wedding dresses.

“She’s trying it on now,” she greeted him, sipping on her water bottle. “I won’t mention we’ve been here for hours. My dress is already done, and though I had reservations, it looks good.”

“Elope.”

“I’m starting to see the benefits of this idea.” Kate chuckled, just as the curtains were pushed back and Abby stepped out from the dressing room.

She was beautiful.

The dress was designed from styles from the turn of the Eighteenth Century. It was made of silk, satin and handcrafted lace. Layers of lace flowed from the bustle down to the small train that flowed behind her. The high neck, long sleeves and lace gloves covered most of her tattoos though a few peaked through the lace.

“Is it perfect?” She asked with tears in her eyes.

Kate got up from her seat and hugged Abby, then handed her a tissue as she dabbed her own eyes. “It’s you.”

Tony leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Ichabod is going to trip over himself when he sees you.” He walked back over to the sofa and grabbed the small package he had brought with him. “For you.”

She opened it and gasped at the handcrafted lace veil, she pulled it out and handed it to Tony. “Put it on.”

Antonio let the heavy lace fall towards the floor, as he positioned it on his sister’s head, letting the length and weight settled around her face and down her back. He stepped back and smiled. “It’s perfect.”

Abby turned and looked in the mirror, tears in her eyes. “It’s beautiful, where did you get it?”

“I had my tailor in Italy make it. I sent him a sample of the lace and he designed it to match.” Tony stepped back and admired how beautiful Abby was, she was positively beaming. “It’s a traditional Catholic wedding veil.”

“Thank You!” She wiped the tears from her eyes, smiling.

“You look beautiful, Gloria.”

Everyone turned to see Nico standing in the doorway. Tony noticed he looked slightly exhausted, likely got on the plane just after his shift ended. He needed to talk to Warrick about Nico running himself ragged.

“Papa!” Abby stepped off the dressing stage and ran up to him.

He held her close then stepped back admiring the dress and veil. “It’s you.” Everything about the dress screamed Abby, with just the perfect hint of the souls of the women she held.

“You like?” She twirled around to show him the full gown.

“It’s perfect.” Nick kissed her forehead. “And I got something for you.” He held out a small box.

Abby took it and opened them up and gasped. Inside was a pair of simple silver earrings, the outer ring, held the Meridii symbol of rearing horses, the simple green teardrop jewel was crafted Roman glass, hung from the silver ring. She looked up at Nick. “They’re beautiful.”

“They are the earrings Julia wore when we were married. I would like you to wear them, but they’ll need to go back into the Meridii vault afterwards.” He smiled slightly lost in an old memory.

“Papa!” She cried and threw her arms around him.

He held her tightly. “Hey no crying.”

She stepped back and nodded, wiping her eyes. “Thank you.”

“One day I’ll tell you how I was able to get them back.” He grinned as she put them on to see the whole outfit together.

Elena would’ve been the first to wear the earrings, and then passed down to Gloria, when her time came. But neither got the chance, and after the attack the house had been looted and destroyed, he never expected to see any of his family heirlooms returned. The fact the villa was saved by Theo, and still standing all these years had been enough of a blessing.

So he had been surprised to see the earrings on display in the Ancient Roman Section of the British Museum, when he had been visiting Arthur in the 1960’s and was killing some time.

Nico stood at the display staring at the earrings, wondering how they had survived and the journey they must have taken to get to this place. He wrote down all the information, then contacted Harvey to get them any means possible.

Harvey sued the Museum on behalf of the Meridii Estate. Stating that the earrings were from the Merdii Villa, and needed to be returned to the rightful owner. The Museum refused, stating they were a significant historical find, and there was no evidence they belonged to the Meridii family. Harvey rolled his eyes, and pointed out they had over 100 pairs of earrings in their collection. These were significant to the history of the Meridii.

The fact they changed the card IDing the Earrings from the Meridii Villa, was just a polite fuck you to Harvey.

So he offered to buy them at three times their insured price. The Museum refused every offer. Now it had become a point of contention for Harvey. He offered enough they could overhaul the whole Ancient Rome section.

A year later the Museum ended up putting in an insurance claim for stolen items. Including: two paintings, a greek statue, an egyptian headdress, and variety of jewelry.

Harvey handed Nico the earrings. ‘So how did you get them?’

‘Called a friend who was really good at acquiring items out of secured environments.’

Nico chuckled. ‘Thank Aurelius for me.’

Nico smiled over at Kate, who was discreetly wiping her eyes. “I hear congratulations is in order.”

She blushed slightly, left hand fiddling with her hair showing off the elegant and very expensive engagement ring. “Thanks.”

“If you need anything, ask Tony. I’m not paying for another wedding.” He smiled when she laughed lightly. “Though in seriousness if you need anything just let us know.”

“I will.”

Nico turned back to his kids. “How about buying your old man some lunch, before I have to get back on a plane and go to work.”

Abby clapped, grabbed her skirts and headed back to the dressing room. “I know the perfect place. Good food, booze and music.”

One of his eyebrows went up and the gleeful tone in his daughter, “Is my virtue safe?” He asked Tony.

“No.”

***
Mac looked out the door to see Hannibal in the back corner of the garden, holding up his phone trying to take a photo. Danny leaned against his Mate as they watched the Hunter giggle as he chased something along the wall.

“Do we want to know?” Danny asked. He couldn’t help the chuckle, Hannibal was obviously having a good time.

“He’s trying to get a picture of the lizard that’s living in your backyard.” Don handed Danny a beer, then sipped his own. “It’s a running joke with his friend Paul.”

Mac shook his head, then kissed Danny’s temple. “We’ll leave him to his lizard hunting. Dinner is just about prepared.”

“Oh food!” Hannibal turned on his heel, making his way to the laid out picnic table. He chuckled as he typed and hit send. “It was cool to invite everyone over for a late summer bbq.”

Mac set down the last of the trimmings for the bbq, and glanced around to see Sid, who had become a close friend in the past months, talking with Eliot. Stella was talking with Blade, while Carl manned the bbq. Cameron Poe had brought his Mate, who was having an in depth discussion on conspiracy theories with Munch. Zoe had even stopped by, she joked that she always made sure to stay close to those who could one day take over New York. Don leaned into Hannibal, who was still giggling over the text messages that were coming in, the detective snickered at some of the responses that he could read. Parker was taking pictures, laughing with the small group.

Mac tapped his glass, getting everyone’s attention. “I wanted to thank everyone for coming.”

“Not passing up free food!” Hannibal smirked at Taylor.

“You are a bottomless pit.” Carl pointed his spatula at the Hunter.

“I’m a growing boy!” He quipped back, getting a few to snicker.

“It’s been an interesting year. You’ve been buy our side helping us with our new lives, being friends, pains in our ass, and trained us to Hunt the fucking asshole down.”

“Amen!” Parker nodded enthusiastically, clicking a few more pictures.

“Danny and I wanted to take this moment to say Thank You.” Mac smiled at his Mate, who took his hand. He held up his glass. “To family.”

“To family.” Everyone replied in return.

***
Constantine just finished Mass and was wandering around the French Quarter. He had been to the city a few times before the Hurricane, and the biggest thing he noticed instantly was how quiet it was, there weren’t many people wandering the street. A lot of the street performers were gone, the guides were taking half the amount of people on their tours, the French Market was still closed, and only about half the shops were back.

But overall the city was recovering, slowly but like Los Angeles, you can’t keep a good city down. Constatine was starting to love his new city, and would fight for her as much as fought for LA.

Constantine stopped for a real po-boy sandwich, talked with some of the locals getting a feel of the city’s vibe and what was going on. There was talk of more hauntings since the hurricane, which isn’t all that surprising. He thanked them for the meal, got a kiss from grandma, and then headed back to Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. He wanted to light a few candles, make some prayers for those lost in the hurricane, maybe ease their souls to move onwards.

At the edge of the park he suddenly stopped. “What the hell is Barbossa doing here?” More importantly how the hell was Barbossa in New Orleans, and they didn’t know about it.

“Look you’ve been bugging me for nine months now and it’s starting to get annoying.” The young man yelled. “I’ve repeatedly called the cops and have a restraining order against you. Leave me the fuck alone!”

“Mister Brent Turner.” Barbossa shook his head, as if he was dealing with the ungrateful child. “I’ve been patient with ye, and now it’s run out.”

“What the hell?!” He stumbled back. “Look, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Ye will be comin’ with me.” Hector grabbed the young man and pulled him towards the waiting van.

“Let go of me!” He yelled.

“Barbossa!!” Constantine yelled as he ran towards the two men, only to be stopped by a few of Barbossa’s undead pirates. He knew he couldn’t get into a fight with all of them in the middle of Jackson Square. “Let him go!”

The undead pirate threw the descendant of Turner into the van and stood his ground with the Hunter. “Ah yes Gabby’s Mate. You let him know that Captain Barbossa is just borrowing the young lad to fix an old curse that should have been fixed centuries ago.” He laughed as he got into the van that high-tailed it out of the French Quarter.

A couple of the undead pirates frowning as they left Constantine and ran after the van that stopped halfway up the street to pick them up. He could hear Barbossa yelling at them, as they hopped in.

He grabbed his phone, calling his Mate. “Gabe, Barbossa just took off with a civilian.”

‘What the hell?’ Van Helsing answered. ‘Did he say anything to you?’

“He said something about an old curse.”

‘I’ll call Jack and Will. Get back to the Manor now.’ He promptly hung up the phone without a goodbye.

Well at least his life wasn’t boring.

***
“SAM!”

Sam Winchester threw the last of their bags into the backseat of the black ’66 Impala and turned towards his brother. “What?”

Dean stepped out of the cheap hotel room, with a look of elated shock on his face. “We got him.”

“What?” Sam questioned again stepping closer.

“I just got a tip from a very reliable source.” Dean smirked as he headed towards the back of the car tossing the bag of weapons into the trunk.

“Where is the bastard?” the younger sibling demanded.

This was it.

They were finally close to finding the Vampire that had killed their mother and Jessica.

“Los Angeles.” Dean stated with a grin.

“We’ve got work to do.” Sam said as he slammed the trunk closed.

10 Comments

  1. Kathie Guazzo

    Read this again and I really like how you spoke of Jethro and Horatio and there efforts adjusting to not only being Vampires but ones with lots of responsibilities for ones so young. I always enjoy Nico, Tony and Speed together and being so family.

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