Title: A Completely Different Jurisdiction
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things CSI belong to CBS, et al.
Notes: AU from the end of BtVS s5…. AU from the end of CSI season 3. I took Greg’s age from the Ubisoft bio on him for the games, so if there’s an error, that’s where it lies.
Summary: Willow and Xander decide to take a vacation and visit a face from their past all at the same time. Like usual, trouble isn’t far away.
There it was. Vegas. Burning like a candle in the darkness. A gaudy, neon candle.
Xander blinked a few times to clear the sudden brightness from his eyes. After hours of driving through nothing but dark desert, the change in scenery was welcome, if not somewhat blinding. It was still a ways off according to the mileage on the car and the carefully researched directions he had printed off of the internet before leaving Sunnydale, but he could see already that it was everything that he’d heard. It just…glowed.
He laughed a little under his breath, glancing at the person in the passenger’s seat to make sure he hadn’t woken her. She didn’t stir and Xander breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t want to wake her, not until they got there. Willow needed some rest. For that matter, so did he.
The last couple of years hadn’t been easy on either of them, but her most especially. He could see the tiredness these days even when she was trying to hide it. Ever since Buffy died it had been a non-stop fight trying to keep Sunnydale from falling to those ever wacky forces of darkness. With Faith in jail, it wasn’t like a Slayer was going to just pop up to help them, either. They’d done their best and it had, amazingly, been enough.
Still, no one had been more thankful than him when a new Slayer had shown up on the scene. He didn’t want to think too much about what that meant about Faith. A part of him wanted to say good riddance… and another part of him knew that she probably was only a product of how she had been raised.
But a new Slayer meant that they were all free to get on with their lives – or what was left of them. Anya was long gone, as was Tara; he and Willow had sacrificed their personal lives somewhere along the way, trying to make things in Sunnydale right for those oblivious idiots that insisted on living there. At least Giles had managed to – and Xander wasn’t going to question the ‘how’ of it – wrest part of the Council’s funds away for the two of them. They could live for years without ever lifting a finger.
Enough money to even include well-deserved vacations, like the one they were taking right now. The planning alone had taken a week, both of them going back and forth about where they wanted to go. The answer had hit them suddenly one day, out of nowhere, and nothing had seemed more right.
He was practically thrumming with excitement as the miles flew by. Soon there were signs giving him something other than the trip odometer to go by. Forty miles to Vegas. Thirty. Twenty-four.
When he started seeing buildings and housing developments, Xander stopped paying attention even to the signs. He knew he was grinning like an idiot, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Vegas. The city of sin and fun. This was going to be great, really. And not just because of the copious amounts of booze he planned to imbibe in an effort to drown out the past two years. No, this was also a social visit and he couldn’t wait to see –
Xander looked over at Willow, grinning at her wide-eyed stare. Any trace of sleep was gone from her face already, excitement taking over. She was staring out of the front window, leaning forward. Even with the dark circles still under her eyes, she looked more alive than she had in the longest time. “What do you think – check in at the hotel first or do we take a little side trip?”
He turned his attention back to the increasingly busy highway; still watching Willow out of the corner of his eye. She bit her lower lip, seriously considering.
”Side trip,” she answered in a rush. “It’s been so long…”
“Yeah, it has.”
Jesse’s cousin was six years older than them, but he had been right there at their sides growing up, even stopping by in the summers and at the holidays to visit after he graduated from high school and moved on to college. They hadn’t seen him since Jesse’s funeral. Letters were exchanged on a regular basis, but no visits. There hadn’t been time with everything that was going on.
”Life got complicated,” Willow murmured as if in answer to his unspoken question of why they had let so much time go by. “For us…and him.”
That was the truth. But, whereas their life was a non-stop ride of supernatural badness, Jesse’s cousin was dealing with the evils of human nature on a nightly basis. It made Xander almost glad that he’d stopped coming by Sunnydale, because then they would have had to let him know there were worse things in the world than human murderers and rapists. There were the things that made horror movies seem tame. The kind of monsters that made other monsters shake in their little claw-tipped boots.
“You got those directions?”
Willow nodded and leaned forward, rummaging in the backpack at her feet. She pulled out another page of directions, rattling them off to him starting with the exit he needed to be looking for.
It didn’t take very long and the building wasn’t that hard to find. Before he knew it, they were pulling into an empty spot in the parking lot.
“He might not be here, you know,” he said quietly, looking at the building in the rearview mirror. This had all seemed like such a good plan when they came up with it – surprise Jesse’s cousin; but now his stomach was scrunching up nervously.
”He’ll be here,” Willow assured him. “And stop getting all nervous-looking. You know he’ll be happy to see us.”
She was right. There was no way in hell this could go any way but great. Xander nodded and reached for the handle on the door. Side by side, they approached, not speaking. Willow didn’t need to speak for Xander to see how happy she was, she was almost skipping. Thank God they hadn’t stopped for coffee halfway through the drive like she wanted – he doubted he’d be able to keep her from doing a happy dance right then and there.
The reception desk was the first thing that they saw when they passed through the doors and Xander went towards it with single-minded intent.
“Hi there,” he grinned down at the girl behind the desk. “Don’t suppose you can tell me where to find Greg Sanders, can you?”
She gave him a smile that did little to mask her curiosity and nodded, picking up the phone on the desk. He turned away to give Willow the thumbs up while the call was made. Greg was working tonight.
“He’ll be right out,” the receptionist said from behind him, the phone going back into its cradle.
“Thanks.” Xander threw over his shoulder. He walked over to wear Willow was waiting beside the visitor chairs, her hands playing nervously with the strap of her backpack. The pack was a reminder that they had something else that they needed to do tonight, but that could wait until after their little reunion.
”You called, pretty lady?”
Xander heard the voice behind him and placed it within a split-second, right as Willow gasped. He turned, seeing only the back of Greg’s head as he leaned into the reception desk.
“Greg.” It was Willow that called out for him first, but that was just fine by Xander because it got him turning around and looking at them for the first time. Same old Greg, he noted instantly. Wacky hair, loud shirts, and a smile that was as infectious as it was bright.
Xander watched as Willow was swept up into Greg’s arms, swung around and then put right back on the ground with a wet kiss to her forehead. And then it was his turn, minus the swinging around and the kiss, thankfully. Xander laughed as he stepped out of the hug.
“Oh, wow. It’s great to see you two,” Greg said. “Are you just passing through? Please say you’re staying for more than just tonight because I’m working, but I have tomorrow off –“
He babbled just like Willow did, Xander had forgotten that. Or, was it that Willow babbled like Greg, he realized suddenly. Was it just a trait she had picked up along the way from all that time spent together? Interesting, very interesting. He’d never put it together before.
“We’re vacationing here,” Willow informed Greg with a smile.
”Well, she’s vacationing – I just came along to make sure that that she didn’t get wasted and end up married to a perfect stranger,” Xander joked, earning himself a slap to the arm from Willow and a laugh from Greg. “Seriously, though – we’re staying at that pyramid place.”
“The Luxor,” Greg nodded. “Good choice.”
“I wanted to stay at Circus, Circus, but you know Xan and clowns.”
Xander flushed and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Yuck it up, best bud of mine. Clowns are evil and one day you’ll see the truth of it.”
”Greg! Are the results from those trace elements back yet?”
Greg looked over his shoulder and back the way he’d come. There was a dark-haired woman standing there, looking a little pissed, if Xander had to guess her mood.
”I’ll be right there,” Greg sighed. He looked regretful. “I’ve gotta get back to work. But – we’ll hang tomorrow, yeah?”
“Yeah, definitely,” Xander nodded as Willow also offered up her assurances. “You’ve got Willow’s cell number, right?”
Greg nodded as another call for his attention pierced the relative quiet of the building. He rolled his eyes. “They just can’t live without me. I’ll call you guys when I get off in the morning, though.”
”Oh – before you go,” Willow stopped him, hand going to her backpack. “Do you know where I can find a…” she pulled out a piece of paper from the bag. “Gil Grissom?”
“My boss?” Greg looked surprised and Xander was sure they were going to get twenty-questions about it later, but he plowed right on without a moment’s hesitation. “Yeah. Let me get you checked in, I guess.”
Willow followed Greg through the immaculate halls of the crime lab, her eyes wide with wonder. It was so…neat-looking. Xander was waiting back in the lobby simply because they didn’t both need to be back here. This was only going to take a minute, really. Just drop off the book and then they could go to their hotel, check in, and get some rest.
Rest… she was so very much looking forward to that part of her vacation. Almost as much as she’d been looking forward to seeing Greg.
He really hadn’t changed at all and that made Willow sort of happy. Greg had always been so cheerful. She’d worried when she found out what he was going to be doing – worried that maybe it would take away some of that cheer. And then the explosion not even four months ago…
… but he was fine, as far as she could tell.
“I’ll call you in the morning,” he repeated, stopping outside of an office. “Be careful on your way to the hotel. Call me if you need –“
“Yes, mother,” she said, accepting the hug he gave her before he disappeared into a room in the center of the lab. Glass walls all around. How… modern.
She shrugged it off and turned to the office, knocking on the door. The man within looked up and gestured for her to come in, curiosity flickering over his face. She waited until she had shut the door behind herself to ease that burning desire for an introduction that burned so plainly in his eyes.
“Mr. Grissom? Rupert Giles asked me to give this to you.”
The book that she was hand-delivering was old, but not rare. Giles had only passed it on to her since they were coming this way. But he hadn’t said this man – Greg’s boss! – needed it.
”Ah, yes,” he took the tome from her, peering down at the worn binding. It was what she could only refer to as a ‘beginner’ text on vampires and a handful of other baddies. Nothing too interesting. Not for her, anyway. “And you are?”
“Oh, sorry,” she blushed and held out her hand. “Willow Rosenberg.”
“He spoke of you,” Grissom nodded once, as if in answer to a question that he’d never voiced. “You know Greg.”
Not a question. A statement. He’d obviously seen them in the hallway. Willow nodded anyway, though. “Since I was very young. He was the cousin to a childhood friend. We all sort of grew up with one another and, wow – you don’t need to know all of this.”
A tiny smile played at the corner of his mouth. “Interesting coincidence, you knowing Greg and Rupert.”
She just shrugged. “Yeah, it is, I guess. Sometimes life is just quirky. He… I mean, Greg… doesn’t know anything about that stuff, though.” She gestured at the book in his hand.
”But you do.”
Willow nodded. “I do. You said Giles talked about me, so you already know that.” She thought of Xander, waiting in the lobby. “I’ve got to go, a friend is waiting for me.”
“Will you be in town long? I’d like to discuss this,” Grissom held up the book. “With you, if possible.”
It would raise questions with Greg that she didn’t want to share the answers to, but Willow found herself nodding anyway; if only because she wanted to know how this man knew Giles. Then again, there were already going to be questions from Greg about why she was in here talking to his boss anyway.
”Yeah, that’s fine.”