Chapter Four: Passing the Torch
The last thing Jethro Gibbs expected to see when he arrived home after a long day at work was a black Mercedes-Benz sitting at the curb in front of his house, but there it sat, and he couldn’t fathom a single reason why it might be there. Curious, he pulled his beat-up old pickup into the driveway and gathered his things, climbing out. By the time he’d locked his truck, the doors of the Mercedes were opening and people were stepping out into his front yard.
His eyes flicked from figure to figure: a young man with an eyepatch and a young red-headed woman had climbed out of the back seat; from the front seat came a young blonde woman and a tall, broad-shouldered man about his own age. “Special Agent Gibbs?” the blonde woman asked, and Gibbs nodded. She strode forward, confidence and danger in every line of her body, and offered her hand. “Buffy Summers. Sorry we didn’t call first; we happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to chance swinging by.”
“In the neighborhood? Aren’t you people from England?”
“We are,” the tall man replied, and Gibbs recognized the voice of Rupert Giles. “But we had to be in Washington on business.”
“Might as well come inside,” Gibbs said, heading for his front door.
They followed him inside and took seats in his living room when he invited them to do so. He leaned against the wall and took them all in. “Well, what’s this about?”
“It’s about Kate,” the red-haired woman said, her voice soft and marred with grief. “Thank you, by the way, for calling to tell me about her.” She swallowed hard.
Gibbs nodded. “You must be Willow.”
Willow smiled slightly. “Yes. And this is Xander.” She took a deep breath. “We work for – well, actually we run
– an international organization that investigates and destroys supernatural threats around the world.”
“Supernatural? What, like ghosts?” Gibbs asked, disbelief coloring his voice.
“Vampires, actually,” Giles corrected him. “And other assorted demonic threats.”
Gibbs sat very still for a long moment, then he snorted with laughter. “This is a joke, right? Kate’s final revenge. Very funny.”
“It’s not a joke,” Buffy replied. “We can prove it.”
“How?” Gibbs demanded.
They convinced him to accompany them to a nearby cemetery, and he witnessed firsthand as Buffy tracked, fought and killed a vampire. Then they went back to his house, where he sat down and stared at them all in shock. “Okay, vampires are real?”
“Vampires are real,” Xander confirmed.
Gibbs continued to digest the information. “What exactly did Kate do for you?”
“She tracked demonic activity in the local area, and as much as possible on a national level,” Giles explained. “With her security clearance, she was able to legally access information that we could have only accessed illegally, and she kept us apprised of any situations that we might need to send a team to deal with.”
“And you want me to do this now?”
Buffy nodded. “Kate was a huge help; having you on our team would maintain the level of efficiency we’ve been keeping here in the States without requiring us to place a permanent team here.”
He thought of Kate’s words in her last letter. They may have something for you. If they do, you should take it. Believe what they say, if not because they can show you proof, then because I am asking you to. Please.
How could he refuse her? He sighed, then nodded. “All right,” he said firmly. “I’ll do whatever I can.”
“Thank you,” Giles said softly. “I’ll see to it that you’re given copies of the last few reports we got from Kate, so that you know what we’re looking for.”
“That would be useful,” Gibbs replied dryly. After a bit more small talk, the visitors left, and Gibbs headed downstairs to his basement, his boat and his bourbon. He needed all three to banish the ghost of Kate Todd from his head.
Around midnight, the scuff of a foot at the top of the stairs caught his attention and he looked up to see Willow Rosenberg standing there, staring down at him. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said tentatively, “but you didn’t answer the doorbell and the door was unlocked.”
Gibbs shrugged. “Want a drink?”
“No, thanks,” Willow replied, moving down the stairs and approaching his boat tentatively. “Me and alcohol are very unmixy these days.” She reached out and ran a hand across the smooth wood. “It’s lovely,” she said softly.
“Thanks,” he replied, his voice equally soft.
She moved around to the stern and ran a hand across the name he’d already carved there. “She’d like this,” she commented, her finger tracing the outline of the capital K. Then she looked around. “How are you going to get it out?”
He shrugged. “I’ll worry about that when the time comes,” he said as he always did.
Willow nodded, as if worrying about things when the time came was something she understood very well. In her line of work, he reflected, it probably was. He took a sip of his bourbon and waited for her to get to the point of her visit. At last, she did. “She had a lot of respect for you,” Willow said finally, her finger now tracing the elegant A. “She talked about you all the time. We could barely have a conversation without her saying ‘Gibbs says’ or ‘You won’t believe what Gibbs did this time’ or something along those lines.” She smiled softly. “When she came to England last year, I had to hide her cell phone to keep her from calling twice a day just to make sure you hadn’t exploded in her absence.”
“She was always afraid if she wasn’t around to run things, we’d all go straight to Hell in a checkered basket,” Gibbs agreed. And suddenly realized that it was the first time he’d spoken of Kate since calling to inform Giles of her death. A tightness went through his chest like a band around his heart, and the next thing he knew, Willow’s arms were wrapped around him, and he was crying hot, painful tears into her red hair.
“I miss her so much,” Willow said into his shirt, and he realized that she was crying too. “I’m so tired of people I love dying.”
He hugged the young woman tightly, finding the comfort he hadn’t known he needed in the embrace of a stranger who had loved Kate as much as he had. Then Willow pulled away, wiping her tears, and gave him a slight smile. “I’d better go,” she said. “But we’ll talk soon. And I’ll come by the next time I’m in town.”
He nodded, and watched wordlessly as she ascended the stairs and vanished into his house. A few moments later, he heard his front door shut. He started to turn back to his boat, but stopped when the air around him grew frigid. Looking around in consternation at the sudden temperature change, he felt his eyes widen in shock and awe at the sight of a wispy female form standing at the top of the landing where Willow had just vanished.
Kate Todd smiled down at him. She did not speak, simply stood there for a moment before disappearing and taking the cold with her. Gibbs shivered once in the aftermath, then swallowed the last of his bourbon and went to bed. For the first time since she’d died, he didn’t feel alone any more.