Gibbs stared at the cell phone in his hand, his gray eyes boring into the device for answers the poor machine couldn’t definitively give. Like, for instance, what was an Ascension? Why was the day of his daughter’s graduation so significant? Why were they so vehement about him not being there? Most importantly, what did this “vision from the future” have to do with it all?
Whatever it was, it was serious, more serious than Gibbs himself could imagine. It was so serious that two teenagers that had never met him were equally emphatic as Willow and Faith that he should not visit Sunnydale during this so-called “Ascension”. While he hadn’t spent a lot of time with her, some of Willow’s stories – what she called “funny stories” – made his blood run cold.
After a long moment, in which the federal agent’s glare began to border on furious, he finally came to a decision. Leroy Jethro Gibbs was a big believer in fighting fire with fire but first, he needed information. This situation was bigger than him, much bigger than many things he could imagine outside of global warfare, and he needed to talk to someone who knew what was what.
It was time to visit that demon Willow had taken them to see, Martiovo.
A short drive, which consisted of an agitated Gibbs enduring twenty minutes of D.C. traffic, found him at Contego. The sanctuary club looked much the same as it had the evening before and yet somehow more welcoming at the same time.
Had they just been there the night before? Between his knowledge of what his daughter had been through in the past twenty-four hours (though he was quite sure he didn’t know all of it) and this new grisly case, it seemed as if it had been so much longer than a single day.
Even though he had left his holster at home, not wanting to have a repeat of his fainting episode, he still patted his side nervously when he stepped inside the club. Some of the demons that lounged about within the walls of Contego still made him want to turn around and run, a deeply hidden part of his psyche wailing for his mother’s warm arms and an endless mug of hot cocoa. Stiffening his spine, he took another step, reminding himself of his daughter’s ease the night before.
“Gibbsy, you’re back!”
Gibbs looked farther into the club, seeing the familiar tan scales of Martiovo, Contego’s host. As the demon in question walked in his direction to greet him, he marveled at the slight ripple that passed across his skin, turning his light brown demonic scales into an off-olive skin tone. The older man smiled slightly. As much as this place still creeped him out to no end, the sight of the demon attempting to make his stay easier actually decreased his level of discomfort.
He strode forward with purpose, placing himself in Martiovo’s personal space within seconds. “I need to talk to you.”
“Ooh, you’ve got Serious Face,” the disguised demon remarked softly. Then he raised his hand and snapped his fingers twice, making an odd clicking sound that reminded Gibbs that he wasn’t human. The bartender nodded once and before he knew it, Martiovo was leading back into his personal rooms. “If I keep taking you to my room, the patrons are gonna think I’ve got a new man.”
Gibbs’ eyes widened comically at the inference. “But I’m not—You’re not—We’re not…,” he sputtered before finally trailing off at the sound of Martiovo’s laughter.
“Oh, honey, I know. You’re so far from my type, I wouldn’t know what to do with you,” he commented idly. With that said, Martiovo sat on his bed with a primness the federal agent hadn’t witnessed the night before while Gibbs seated himself at a straight-backed chair in front of a mirrored wall, something he wasn’t sure he wanted to asked the purpose of. “So, what’s wrong?”
Gibbs thought about asking how the demon knew something was wrong. Willow’s explanation of what exactly Martiovo was, something about auras and singing and being open, maybe? It had mostly flown over his head and reminded him of when Kelly was so excited that he could only understand every third word. So, he decided to get straight to the point. “What’s an Ascension?”
“Ascension?” Martiovo echoed, following the word with a low whistle. “Trust me, sweetcheeks. You don’t want to get involved in that.”
“My daughter’s involved in that already,” Gibbs told the demon through gritted teeth.
“Well, that’s what being friends with a Slayer will get you. They always get the choice bits of mayhem, don’t they?” He shook his head. “Why do you want to know?”
“I want—I have to help her. She’s the only family I have left.”
Martiovo arched an eyebrow. “We both know that’s not true.”
Gibbs scowled. “I didn’t come here to talk about my father.”
The demon rolled his eyes. “Fine,” he sighed. “Alright, an Ascension is when a very dedicated sorcerer or warlock ascends from human form to that of a true demon.”
“Like you?” the federal agent asked.
“Oh-ho, no,” Martiovo asserted. “I don’t know what the Mayor’s planning to become but it will make my regular patrons look like freaking Gummy Bears.”
The older man’s gray eyes pinned the demon suspiciously. “How did you know it was the Mayor?”
Martiovo waved a hand dismissively and scoffed at him. “Everyone knows, Jethro,” he answered, using Gibbs’ middle name as a taunt. “Something big going down on the Hellmouth, all of the demon world knows about it.”
Gibbs sighed. “I need to help. Tell me how I can help.”
“You can’t help with the Mayor, that’s the Slayer’s job. But I imagine he’s got the vampires under his control. Did the girls tell you anything about them?”
He nodded silently. Willow had told him that vampires might be the one thing that he would be likely to run into outside of Sunnydale. She had gone in-depth about it and had told him that most demons steered clear of overpopulated locations. “Wooden stake to the heart, beheading, fire. Faith said it was simpler and cleaner than gutting a fish.”
“Second, you’ll want someone with you that knows about the supernatural.”
“I’m not telling my team. The less they know about this, the better.”
“Gibbs, you’re part of a government agency and if you’re an indication at all, everyone you work with is pretty efficient.” He nodded slowly. “Odds are that one of them has some kind of experience with the supernatural.”
“How do I find out? It’s not like I can go up to them and ask, ‘So, have you ever staked a vampire?’ Well, Abby…”
“That’s where Willow would come in. After all, she has the connections to find out.”
Gibbs groaned. He was really hoping to avoid another argument so soon.
Inside of the hour following dawn, Oz found himself in front of his girlfriend’s house. He couldn’t shake a feeling of apprehension that had been bothering him for the past few days, ever since she had told him that the highly devout man that he had done his best to please earlier in the school year was not her real father. He prided himself in being able to translate Willow-speak fluently but even then, he only caught that the real father was some former Marine federal agent in Washington, D.C.
Somehow, that seemed even more daunting than the very Jewish rabbi.
With a measured but mostly inaudible sigh, Oz raised a hand and knocked sharply on the door. Despite the fact that all graduating seniors no longer had to attend classes, he knew his redhead well enough to know that she would already be awake, if she had gone to sleep at all. With the upcoming apocalypse, he was also aware that sleep at more than a two-hour stretch was hard for Willow to come by.
He was surprised to the point that he arched an eyebrow when Xander answered the door.
“Oz, my man. Where you been?” He rubbed his eyes and rolled his neck as he turned away from the doorway in an obvious invitation to enter. “God, what time is it?”
Needless to say, it still irked the werewolf that his girlfriend and Xander were still so close. But it had to be accepted. Willow had spent weeks asserting that whatever the fling between her and her friend had been about, it was long over. He just needed to accept that boyfriend did not in fact trump best friend.
“Six-thirty,” Willow’s bright voice answered from the kitchen.
“Hey, Red, your boy’s here.”
That voice, smug and snarky around the yawn that muffled her words, made the werewolf’s blood freeze and burn in his veins at the same time. He turned his head slightly to see the dark Slayer stretching luxuriously on his girlfriend’s couch, Cordelia unconscious at her side. He had no way to make sense of the situation and all he could see was Faith’s scary-looking dagger against Willow’s throat, an event that was still too recent for him to feel comfortable about.
“You,” he growled. Literally growled. The usually mild-mannered musician could hear the angry rumble in his chest as fury swept a path through his body.
“Hoo boy,” Faith murmured, her eyes wide as she saw something in his face that he could only feel.
“Oz!” Willow snapped from the doorway to the kitchen. Her assertive tone drew his eyes to hers and she smiled gently, calming his immeasurably despite his misgivings at the entire situation. “How was your gig?”
His thoughts broke off and become disjointed for a moment as he remembered flashes of their gig – a paying gig, best of all – in San Diego. But Willow had always been good at that, distracting him in the rare time that he became emotional. “Decent,” he answered her. “What’s going on?”
She grinned and tilted her head toward the kitchen. “C’mon, help me make breakfast.” It wasn’t until he was about to cross through the threshold the separated the living room from the kitchen that he noticed that Xander had moved to place himself between Faith and Oz.
Shaking off the sensation that he’d just crossed over into Bizarro World, he accepted the large bowl of pancake batter that was handed to him and continued to stir. After a moment, he arched an eyebrow at her. “Did I miss something?” he asked softly.
Willow laughed nervously. “A little bit. It mostly boils downs to… Faith isn’t as evil as we thought.”
Oz snorted softly. “Really?”
The redhead nodded, concentrating on the skillet in front of her. “You know that spell I start researching after the demon aspect? Where Buffy could read our minds?”
The musician nodded idly. He never really understood if the purpose of the spell was to protect them if the Slayer suddenly became telepathic again or to protect the Slayer in the future against anything else that could give her a “demon aspect”.
“Well, I cast it on myself.” Turning her head, she flashed him an apologetic grin. “I found out recently that it’s been shielding me from the Mayor.”
“He kidnapped you, held you for ransom,” Oz reminded her gently.
“How do you think he’s been mayor for so long?” She moved the skillet to a cold burner and took the batter from him. “He’s very good at compulsion. This shield that the spell formed around me, it’s permanent and it extends to everyone around me.” She turned to fully face her boyfriend. “I’ve been protecting Faith.”
The way she spoke, he knew some things had not gone her way. “What does that mean?”
She shrugged, the movement thin and limp. “The Mayor thinks I’m working for him now and Buffy thinks I’m possessed.” She flicked her eyes to her feet. “I might have… let her think that.”
Oz felt panic fill his chest until it felt something like a throbbing ache, burying his normal stoicism under an additional filter. In order to evade the feeling for the time, he decided to broach a completely different topic. “Your dad?” he finally managed to choke out.
Willow granted him with a bright grin and he was filled to the brim with golden happiness at the thought that there was something that wasn’t bringing her down. “He’s nice. A little crazy about carpentry, maybe. It went really well, I thought. Except for the vampire, of course.”
“Vampire?” the werewolf echoed uncertainly.