Willow rubbed the center of her forehead, glaring at the computer screen in front of her. She had just finished the complicated background checks of her father’s team and only two stood out. There was Caitlin Todd, of course; her situation was pretty cut and dried. There was been an instance in her freshman year at college that matched the descriptors of a massive vampire attack and Kate had been the only one to survive. She had been out with her friends in a cabin just a few miles from the edge of town, a cabin that might have been a nesting location for the very vampires that killed her friends. Aside from a single buried police statement where she personally used the term ‘vampire’ and the evidence on the bodies, the only sign that she had been through a vampire attack was her change in major, from liberal arts to criminal justice.
The other was Donald Mallard, the NCIS medical examiner. His life was well-documented, nothing out of reach and almost nothing off-file. However, his background in the UK was immediately suspect, made her think of the Watchers Council. So, that meant asking Wesley or Giles, who was unfortunately still in her home.
Standing up, she rubbed her eyes, casting a glance at her balcony doors. It was just after sunset, which meant Faith would be going for a patrol soon. Willow herself had been in her bedroom ever since that mini-breakdown in the living room. She researched better by herself anyway. Bouncing back and forth between researching Ascension options and checking up on her father’s team would have been monumentally more difficult downstairs with the others. The Watchers were just about the only one that could research somewhat quietly.
With a despondent exhalation of breath, not quite sure if it was at having to brave the chaos of her living room again or the daunting task of reporting to her father in the near future, Willow descended the stairs. She was carrying one name in her head, the name of Doctor Mallard’s mother. It was somewhat obvious that “Ducky” himself was not a Watcher, his extensive file that detailed his various areas of expertise clearing that prospect aside, but she was well aware that he could have very well been much like Giles. Buffy had told her once that Giles’s bad old days had more to do with him not wanting to be a Watcher himself, just like his father, than for any real propensity for the dark magicks.
“Hey, Wes,” she called out. “Got a minute?”
The very rigid Watcher’s dark head popped up immediately, his bright eyes focusing immediately on her person. “Did you find something?” She had noticed that he had taken to not addressing them by name at all, knowing intimately how they seemed to hate being referred to by their last names.
The redhead shook her head. She knew that if all else failed they could fall back of the plan in her memories, blowing up the school after luring the Mayor inside. (However, without Faith herself in a coma, Willow had no clue how that would work out.) Something would come up as a solution, she was sure of it.
“Is there a Watcher by the name of Mallard? Dolores Mallard?”
“Miss Mallard?” Wesley echoed somewhat uncertainly. “It certainly sounds familiar.” He twisted his body very slightly in the direction of the living room. “Mister Giles, was there a Mallard under the Watchers’ employ?”
Giles frowned very slightly. “Mallard, Mallard,” he muttered slowly and Willow could tell that he was remembering something. Then, he suddenly snapped his fingers. “Dolores Mallard! Right. She retired the year I graduated from secondary school.”
Xander clucked his tongue in amusement. “G-Man, you’re showing your age.”
Before Giles could respond, Willow drew attention back to herself. “So, she was a Watcher?”
“One of the best, according to my father,” Giles answered after briefly arched his eyebrow at her. “She had three Slayers, all of whom survived two years. She was so good they didn’t force her to retire until she turned seventy.”
Wesley exhaled slowly. “Wow,” he commented with wide eyes.
“Why are you asking me this, Willow?” the older Watcher asked then.
Faith groaned, pulling her head up from a resting position in one of Wesley’s larger tomes. “Oh, I know the answer to that one. Big Daddy Gibbs is coming for the Ascension.”
With the exception of those that had already known this piece of information, the living room burst into exclamations of surprise and apprehension. “Willow, you absolutely have to convince him to stay in the Capitol,” Giles urged firmly.
The redhead sighed, wondering how many times she would have to go round and round with him. But with him being roughly twenty years her senior, she supposed she could see his position. “I’ve tried, Giles. God knows I’ve tried… but look at it from his point of view.”
“And what would that be, pray tell?”
She smirked slightly, not really feeling particularly humorous. “I’m his daughter, a daughter he didn’t even know he had a week ago. First of all, he’s not going to miss my graduation. Secondly, he knows
,” she told the older man with emphasis.
“Knows about us, about the vampires and the demons and Willow’s witchiness,” Xander answered. “The night Angel told you about Willow and Faith hanging out together, she was at a demon bar with him.”
“You were what!?” Giles exclaimed, that one vein she always noticed seeming to pump more blood than normal in that moment.
“He was attacked, Giles. By a vampire, on the Navy Yard.”
“And being kind of an ass about it,” Faith added darkly. “Sees a vampire slayed right in front of his face but he’s still all ‘vampires don’t exist’.”
“He almost died, probably because of us.” Willow shrugged at the question in her mentor’s eyes. “Witch and Slayer hanging out together, it’s gotta attract some badness.” With a sigh, she continued to press her point. “Giles, he’s a Marine and I’m his kid. He’d walk through fire for me, even if I’d rather he’d stay far away. If he’s coming, then he needs something resembling backup.”
As the words escaped her mouth, the cell phone in her pocket rang.
Gibbs stood just outside the elevator in front of the autopsy room, shifting from one foot to the other. He hadn’t felt this nervous since Mike Franks decided to retire, leaving him without any security as to his position. (It was another week before he was named the Special Agent in Charge of NCIS’s Major Crime Response Team.) Still, Willow had given him explicit directions and he was not going to let her down by admitting he wasn’t ballsy enough to confront the one person in the world that was his best friend.
But how had Ducky managed to keep all this to himself for so long?
Taking a deep breath, Gibbs took a step forward, activating the automatic doors that led into the morgue. Briefly telling himself to ‘man the hell up’, he flashed a lopsided smile at his friend. “Hey, Ducky. Got a question.”
The medical examiner had been reaching for his overcoat but let his arm drop at the sight of the NCIS agent. “A question? Well, continue, Jethro.”
“Just tell me what you think of this.” Glancing down, he flipped open the small notepad in his breast pocket. “ ‘Into each generation a Slayer is born.’” He quickly looked up to gauge the older man’s reaction.
Ducky took a step backward. “Where did you hear that?”
Gibbs deflated slightly, letting his arms hang at his side. “So it’s true.” He had honestly thought Willow was wrong about his friend’s lineage, that he couldn’t possibly be part of something that sounded like a British secret society. “You’re a Watcher.”
“I am no such thing,” Ducky retorted indignantly, vehemently. “Mother… well, she was considered to be the greatest Watcher of her generation. I was supposed to follow in her footsteps.” The Scottish gentleman arched an eyebrow and tilted his head in such a fashion that Gibbs knew he was peering up at him. “How do you
know about Watchers?”
It was this part that was a little difficult to explain. Despite the niggling feeling of betrayal deep in his chest, the hurt that stemmed from the fact that his daughter had rooted out Ducky’s unspoken past before he had, he leaned against a nearby autopsy table. “I suppose Abs told you about my daughter.”
“She did,” Ducky conceded. Then his eyes widened comically. “Dear God, she’s not the Slayer… Is she?”
The thought of Willow, sweet and mostly unassuming Willow, being the Slayer made him guffaw suddenly. He just couldn’t see the redhead that was his daughter with that hard look that was on Faith’s face just as she had slayed the vampire that had almost killed him. “No. God, no. She said she’s friends with both of them.”
“Both?” Ducky echoed uncertainly. “Jethro, you must be mistaken. There is only one Slayer at a time.”
Gibbs smiled, remembering how Willow had told him that he would probably say that. The fact that there were currently two Slayers in existence was not common knowledge, especially to those who hadn’t been part of the Council for the better part of twenty years. She had given him the details, quick and dry. Someone of Doctor Mallard’s background would understand, she said. “The Slayer drowned and was technically dead before she was resuscitated. In that instant, before she came back, another was called.”
“Really?” Ducky asked in that low murmur that Gibbs knew from experience that he found something very interesting, something that was worth dissection. “Fascinating.”
“I need your help, Ducky.”
The doctor straightened slightly, smiling that proper close-lipped smile. “Whatever you need, Jethro.”
“How do you stop an Ascension?”
Ducky scoffed, surprise evident in the noise. “You don’t, you run. Far, far away.”
“Been hearing that a lot lately,” the federal agent remarked softly. “I know you’re not one to willingly put yourself in the line of fire, Ducky. Mostly because you’re not really trained for combat.” Gibbs looked at his friend, his gray eyes both sincere and sad. “But she’s my daughter and this is already happening to her. I can’t just stay here and be… I don’t know, safe
After a moment that felt like an eternity but was really a drop in the bucket of time, Ducky’s face broke into a grin. “Well, we’re about to do something I haven’t done in a very long time.”
“What is that?” Gibbs asked, feeling hope like the fluttering wings of a butterfly beat wildly in his chest.
“Get in trouble for going through Mother’s Watcher journals.”