It was nearly noon when the round table of explaining the last couple days to Oz finally came to a close. Though he was taking the knowledge with his normal silent aplomb, Willow could tell that he was disturbed. The last time he’d seen her, everything had had clearly defined lines. She was Buffy’s sidekick, sticking by the Slayer through thick and thin, and Faith was the evil rogue Slayer. Xander was equally devoted to the blond warrior and Wesley was the bumbling young Watcher that they all hated. (Speaking of the Watcher, Wesley had shown up at her house around nine, halfway through the jumbled lines of explanation and interrupting an argument between Xander and Cordelia, armed with a pile of books that he believed to be pertinent to Ascension research.)
Now, the tables had switched. Faith and Wesley was the trusted ones while Buffy and Giles had been abandoned in the cold. Willow could tell that this was a bit of a change for her boyfriend, the altered allegiances. So far, she still hadn’t come up with a proper way to explain to them that Angel was on death’s door and she was the one that had put him there. The prom would be the following night and if Buffy showed up at all, it would be all she could talk about.
She opened her mouth, ready to broach the subject, when her phone rang. Expelling her breath like a deflated balloon, she flipped open her cell phone, not bothering to look at the caller identification. “Hi?” she answered in slight confusion. Everyone that would be calling her in the middle of a Friday was already in her house.
“Willow?” Gibbs’ voice asked uncertainly.
“You called the right number,” she answered her father with a slight smile.
“I need a favor,” he said somewhat hesitantly, as if he didn’t want to ask anything of her at all.
For Willow’s part, she couldn’t understand what it was Gibbs would need from her, especially at such a distance. “Name it.”
She heard a sigh on the other end of the phone. “Abby said you were very good with computers.”
“Good enough that it might be considered illegal?” The question was leading but Willow could tell that he was going somewhere with it.
However, it still put the epicenter of her stressed-out brain on high alert. “If I was?” she queried in a long drawl.
“I need to know who in my team has a history with the supernatural,” Gibbs told her calmly. “Before you ask,” he interrupted when she drew in a deep breath, “I think you already know why.”
Willow shook her head, not wanting to think through the implications of her biological father getting himself involved in something so potentially apocalyptic. “Do you even know what you’re talking about getting into? This is majorly bad stuff.”
“I talked to Martiovo last night,” he told her. “He filled me in on the basics. You can tell me the rest.”
Sighing, the redhead slipped into the kitchen, finding the pencil and notepad she used for grocery lists. “Okay, give me their names. I’ll do a search.”
“Anthony Dinozzo Junior, Caitlin Todd, Abigail Sciuto, Gerald Jackson, and Donald Mallard.” Willow jotted down the names quickly, pausing when she heard the hesitation in her father’s voice at the last name.
“Is he a friend?” she asked softly.
“Yes. But he doesn’t know about Shannon or Kelly,” he added.
Willow bit her lip, trying not to throw in her opinion about how he kept his past from those around him. “Okay. Well, I’ll get back to you later. Research comes first.”
“I understand. I’ll call back tonight.” With that said, Willow heard the click that signaled the end of their conversation. Restraining the urge to sigh – she was sighing a little too much lately – she looked toward the living room, surprised to see Faith standing in the doorway.
“Gibbs?” she asked, her dark eyes heavy with concern.
“Yeah. He’s coming.” She ran her fingers over the indents her scrawl had made on the notepad paper. “Not even Mar could stop him.”
Faith smirked, the expression an echo of her normal smugness. “That’s saying something.”
“We’ll have to prepare him.” Willow passed a hand over her face, suddenly really tired again. “We need a better idea of what’s going to happen.”
“I’m sure the Boss will clue us in soon enough. He gave me a mark that he wants you to help with, some professor guy.”
Willow could feel it as her eyes turned sharp, the image of the Slayer clearer in front of her as a memory struck at the back of her brain. “Professor?” she echoed. “That sounds really familiar.”
“Your memory failing you, Red?” Faith jibed gently, knowing that the girl in front of her was more than a little disturbed by this change in events.
“Actually… yes. The memories, her
memories are starting to fade a little.” She shrugged with one shoulder. “Well, I guess now is as good a time as any,” she murmured, pushing herself from the chair.
“For what?” Faith replied.
“To tell them about Angel.”
The Slayer snorted softly. “I don’t think they would much care.”
“And yet,” Willow answered. Passing by the dark-haired Slayer, she noticed that Xander was peering out the bay window that looked out over the hedges in the front yard. “The demon’s gone, Xander.”
The boy in question straightened at the comment. “Yeah, I know,” he replied defensively. “But G-Man’s here.”
Giles stood in front of Willow’s home, shifting from foot to foot as he fought the nervousness that roiled at the bottom of his gut. He would never have sought her out, especially after the debacle from the day before, but he’d realized she was quite correct. He did need her because demonic chemical analysis was beyond his expertise. It was only after seeing Buffy a few hours earlier, having finally left Angel’s side and looking all the worse for wear, that purely dejected expression marring her face when he informed her he had made no progress with the blood, that he decided to seek out his redheaded protégé.
Before he knew it, the door opened, Faith and Wesley – Slayer and Watcher, together at last – looking at him with serious eyes. “You’re not gonna hurt her,” the Slayer told him firmly.
“I haven’t the slightly intention of that,” Giles assured her.
Faith rolled her eyes but glanced over her shoulder while Wesley’s very serious concern upgraded to heavy disapproval. “It’s your call, Red.”
He had to assume that she’d given the affirmative because both Slayer and Watcher parted and the door remained open. After a moment where he felt more teenager than middle-aged librarian, he strode into the house, unable to fight that feeling that he was walking into an enemy fortress that had better barricades and resources than his own. It only took a second to make his head right and remind himself that whatever delusions his Slayer might be entertaining at the moment, Willow would never do anything to endanger the world.
She had to be playing an angle, though such behavior seemed much too deceptive for her.
“Angel seems to be ill,” he started once he was through the doorway. He held up the vial of blood. “I drew blood last night. I can’t seem to make head nor tails of it.”
He caught it immediately when Faith looked at Willow and raised her eyebrows. For her part, the redhead sighed and nodded her head. “It’s Interfectoris de Mortuum. That’s what he has.”
“The killer of the dead,” Giles translated in a murmur. “How do you know that?” he asked in a harsh voice.
Pinning him with blank green eyes, Willow straightened her posture and brought herself to her full height. “Because I gave it to him,” she told him, something akin to her Resolve Face in place.
It felt like the bottom has dropped out from underneath him. “Say that again, please.”
Faith sighed roughly, rolling her eyes. “Deadboy owed her and the Boss would have been happy for me to shoot him with a laced crossbow bolt. Red made sure he would come back from it.” She tilted her head to look at the redhead in question. “Right?”
Laughing softly, Willow nodded. “I gave him an extremely diluted form of the poison and he took it under his own volition. Knew what it was and everything.”
“Do you know what this is, you silly girl?” he demanded loudly, very aware of that vein on his forehead that Buffy liked to laugh at had become protruded. “Do you have any clue?”
Looking around the room, Giles could see that most of them – Xander, Cordelia, Oz, and Wesley – were cowed by this chastising, by his harsh words coming down on their heads. He was both surprised and not when Willow and Faith were unfazed by his outburst. In fact, it seemed to make Willow even angrier. “Why are you here, Giles? You have your answer.”
He gripped the vial more tightly in his hand, fighting the urge to throw it against the wall. “Interfectoris de Mortuum?” he exclaimed. “That is no answer at all. He’s going to die, Willow. Unless…” It was there that he faded off because he remembered what the texts said about this particular poison.
“Without the blood of a champion, he’ll die.” Willow sighed, rubbing her temples. The former Watcher felt like he could almost see it, the way she was seething under the surface. There had not been very many instances for him to witness her anger, so he had to remind himself that it did indeed exist. “I get that you don’t trust me. Ever since I started doing magic, you haven’t trusted me… will probably never trust me. But I know my research. I spent three hours researching this poison before I took it to Angel. Diluted with three times as much tap water, it will still cause the effects of the full poison but they will fade in a week, give or take.”
“Why? Why would you do that, Willow?” Giles wanted – no, needed
– to know.
“Because I’m playing two sides, Giles, and it’s hard. I’m keeping the Mayor from knowing how much you really know and I’m hindering him when and where I can. I’m valedictorian and the Ascension is on my graduation day and my real father is some stranger and I’m doing the very best I can!” Willow’s voice and tone had reached a fever pitch as her emotions exploded on the Watcher.
A silence settled over the living room, generally the same reaction that occurred every single time Willow verbally attacked anyone. However, Faith snorted after a brief moment in time. “Feel better, Red?”
Willow sank down on the couch and placed her head in her hands. “A little,” she replied, the sound muffled through her hands.
Xander was the one to move first, sitting beside his friend and rubbing her back. After holding herself tense for a moment, the redhead relaxed into her friend’s arms, her shoulders shuddering as she finally released whatever emotions she had been holding inside. It took some time before Oz joined them, wrapping his arm around Willow in a way that nudged Xander out of the way. Giles marveled that those surface jealousies still existed in the face of the upcoming apocalypse.
“Mister Giles, can I speak to you?” The former Watcher turned to see Wesley standing in the doorway to Willow’s kitchen, gesturing vaguely for the older man to join him. Indecision gripped him for a moment but he decided to talk to the younger Watcher.
“What is it, Wesley?” Giles could help the agitation that seeped out of his voice.
“I understand your reticence, Mister Giles. When Miss Rosen—Willow,” he corrected himself, “first told me she was working for the Mayor, I was highly alarmed. But I think you need to understand your position.”
Giles reeled back on the urge to smack the young upstart in front of him hard enough to put him on the ground. “What position?”
“Willow might not have made the right choice but she made the only one her situation could handle. Also, we did your Slayer’s job yesterday, if you would like to know the truth. Xander and I slayed two hellhound and Faith got another that had escaped. They would have attacked the senior prom.”
“Hellhounds?” Giles echoed. “What are you talking about?”
“Willow knew where they were and that they were going to become a problem. I can only imagine it was her magic that granted her that knowledge.” Giles didn’t know at that moment in time that that statement was technically correct. “You should trust her judgment.”