Willow smiled tremulously at the gray-haired man that looked at her with wide eyes. It was another brief minute before the same man’s face contorted into something that conveyed both amusement and resignation. She knew that those emotions were obviously not directed at her, instead concentrating on the acceptance she’d seen written across his face the moment he’d laid eyes on her.
It was unreal and unprecedented for Willow, knowing somehow that he already loved her. He didn’t even know her at all! She didn’t have to prove herself to be smart enough or accomplished enough or Jewish enough or strong enough. He didn’t really know enough about her to have any kind of ulterior motive.
Besides which, she was tired of looking for them.
“Sweetheart,” Ira called softly from behind her. Willow turned casually to face him. By the look on his face, he had interpreted the Gibbs’s expression along the same lines that she had. His jaw was set into a tight line but his eyes were sad.
Willow cast a meaningful glance out of the corner of her eye to Faith. “Go introduce yourself, okay?”
Worry clearly visible in her dark eyes, Faith nonetheless grabbed Abby’s arm just above the elbow and made her introduce the men to her. Before completely focusing on her parents, Willow heard the Slayer’s tone change to something similar to what the witch had imagined dozens of times after being informed of her ultimately meaningless fling with Xander. The tone was highly sensual and inviting but, knowing Faith as she did, she could detect a hollowness to the interaction.
Meeting her parents’ gaze directly, Willow could feel her anger making itself known again. They were here, finally, with her biological father so close. What could possibly be wrong?
“We can’t do this,” Ira started softly. Seeing the pain clear in his eyes, Willow softened incrementally. She reminded herself that even though the man that had raised her hadn’t openly declared such an emotion, he was likely sad and torn by these events. Maybe the breach between Ira and Gibbs had never had the change to heal and the rabbi’s non-confrontational nature would likely keep it that way.
Willow nodded, knowing that he didn’t want to say everything in his mind and was perhaps unable to convey everything at this time. A glance at her mother, however, revealed something completely different. Sheila’s eyes were blank, her line of vision randomly flicking over to the elevator. She could tell that the older woman considered this entire situation to be irrelevant and she was already bored. Of course, Sheila would be supportive, if only for Willow’s sake, but the teenager could tell that she really didn’t want to.
“No, it’s fine,” Willow replied finally, a false grin pasted on her face. “You two go ahead to the hotel. Faith and I will spend time with Gibbs. It’ll be fine.” She swallowed past the almost solid anxiety in her throat, repressing the urge to sigh. “I’ll call later to tell you where we’re staying.”
Watching them walk away, she felt a deep sense of déjà vu. Would it be like this for the rest of her life, staring after her parents while they walked away from every important moment in her life? Sighing heavily, she turned away from the sight only to find Gibbs standing directly behind her. Not having expected his very solid presence to be right there, she took a stumbling step back.
He reached out and grabbed her shoulder gently, steadying her backwards gait easily. “Is everything okay?” Looking up, Willow could see the concern in his eyes. This was surreal as well, having someone care for her feelings. Even with Faith and Xander, there were a few too many misgivings for her to completely give up her trust to them. It was like looking into Oz’s eyes but the emotion there was definitely love of a different kind.
She shook her head and made the smile on her face seem more genuine. “Yeah, it’s all fine.” She peered over his shoulder to look into the bullpen, which revealed Faith flirting with a male agent while Abby stood off to the side. “Well, that can’t be legal.”
Gibbs turned, a flicker of seriousness flashing across his face. Seeing the scene, the stern expression slipped away and he shrugged. “That’s just how he is.”
She grinned. “Her, too. But she’s still seventeen.”
The gray-haired man smiled, something vaguely sadistic in the expression. “Tony,” he barked harshly.
The younger man didn’t even turn from Faith’s alluring face. “Yeah, Boss?”
“Jailbait.” At that, Tony’s face lost most of its color, which caused Willow to giggle behind her hand.
Faith then turned away from him and flounced over to Willow’s side. “You ruin all my fun.”
Willow smiled at her friend, blowing a raspberry between her lips at the comment. “Do not.” She gestured vaguely at Gibbs. “I want you to actually meet my father.”
Faith gave Gibbs an obvious once-over, even though Willow was quite sure she had seen everything she needed about the man while she was flirting with Tony. “So… you’re Big Daddy Gibbs.” She gazed at him seriously for a moment but then laughed, the sound easily erupting from her mouth. “Okay, I’m officially hungry.”
Willow nodded and placed a gentle hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Patience,” she murmured. She looked up at the former Marine. “Are we doing a paternity test?”
At that, Gibbs looked distinctly uncomfortable. “I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t believe Ira because I do. I so do!” He cringed slightly and Willow guessed that was not his own particular speech pattern. “If you don’t want one, you don’t have to. I completely believe that you’re my daughter.”
“Boss, you’re babbling,” Tony interjected with an openly shocked expression spreading across his face.
Abby tilted her head at Gibbs. “Is that what I sound like?”
Willow gestured dismissively and looked directly at the forensic scientist. “Come on, swab me so we can feed Faith.”
Abby grinned broadly and pulled a long, thin sealed package and a plastic case. Ripping open the thin package revealed a long, one-side cotton swab. Knowing what to do, Willow dutifully open her mouth and Abby brush the swab along the inside of one of Willow’s cheek with just enough force to collect a large enough DNA sample. She then removed the swab from Willow’s mouth and dropped it into the plastic case.
“Okay, I’ll take these to my lab. I should have the results in the morning.”
Gibbs smiled in gratitude. He knew she was rushing the results because of his insane need to double- and triple-check the facts whenever he could. “Thanks, Abs.”
Mere minutes passed before they were out of the NCIS building and walking the sidewalks in the Navy Yard. In the elevator, Gibbs had decided that they would eat at a relatively good Chinese restaurant that was only a mile or so away. He told them immediately that he picked it because it was close and it was simple.
Faith snorted. “Easy to please, aren’t ya?”
Willow shot the Slayer a glare. “It’s good, though. My parents are… well, everything’s always complicated and Mom prefers gourmet food when she can get away with it.”
Suddenly, Faith could feel something pull at the bottom of her gut. She recognized it instantly – the more time she spent around the rapidly demonizing Mayor, the stronger this particular feeling got. It was like a demon proximity alert. Whatever was setting off her Slayer instincts, it was probably nearby and likely vampiric in nature.
Willow glanced at Faith and instantly recognized the hard set to her face. Almost instantly, she could feel a slight disturbance in her own instincts. While her connection to the magicks was weak and her barometer to danger was so much more diluted than that of a Slayer, she could feel it now that her attention had been brought to it. She immediately turned to her father, thinking to distract him.
“So, what should I call you? Because Gibbs sounds really impersonal.”
Despite her effort to hide it, her desperation was noticed if his face was any indication but he went along with her line of questioning. “Jethro, I guess. I think it might be early to ask you to call me Dad.”
Willow nodded. Her eyes darted around their surroundings, trying to spot the danger. However , the Navy Yard had a few groups of people walking around. It could be any one of them. Another glance in Faith’s direction revealed her eyes to be narrowed but she continued to walk in a lazy gait, her fingers randomly twitching to the stake in the back pocket of her pants.
Willow watched as Faith stalked away from their current path, the predator stride tinting her walk slightly. She turned to gauge Gibbs’ reaction only to find that he was looking elsewhere. There was a man in a uniform approaching them. He didn’t seem to know him but was interesting all the same.
“Sir,” the man drawled. Willow cringed, reaching into her pocket to grab a small glass bottle of holy water. She had been around enough fledglings to know their behavior almost as well as her own. “I’m so hungry.” On the last word, the man’s face shifted to reveal his vampiric nature, his brows and cheekbones becoming more pronounced and his eyes shifting from dark blue to feral yellow. He had begun the move to pounce on Gibbs, creating a strangely deep level of panic in Willow.
Instantly, the vampire disappeared in a cloud of ash, revealing Faith behind him with a fierce look and wielding her stake like bowie knife. After a brief moment, she spun the stake into a less threatening hold and put it back into her back pocket.
“Geez, Red, we’ve only been here for a couple hours. If that.” She sneered down at the pile of ash.
“Vampires would likely be a global epidemic,” Willow informed the Slayer, sounding very much like a female Giles.
“Vampires?” Gibbs echoed softly.
Willow and Faith looked at each other and then turned to look at Gibbs. His eyes were wider than what seemed normal and his face may have lost some color. Faith stubbed the toe of her boot at the spot where the ash had fallen.