It was noon, West Coast time, when Jethro Gibbs disembarked from the airplane, glad that he was no longer aboard for more than one reason. Because he had only left Ducky’s house something like ten hours prior, which had left him four hours to sleep before he had to be at the airport, he was still a little grumpy. Though they had continued to peruse his mother’s journals and various other resources until the early hours of the morning, they had turned over very little in regards to information.
How in the deepest depths of Hell would they be able to set a sixty-foot demon on fire so suddenly and in such a way as would be equivalent to a volcanic eruption?
Stepping into the fluorescent lighting that was the open lobby of Sunnydale’s very small airport, he immediately cast his gaze around for the familiar red hair that had belonged to his deceased wife and now to his estranged daughter. Frowning when he didn’t note that particular shade of auburn in his first sweep, he looked again. Almost immediately, he saw Faith in her very singular style of clothing, standing with her body loose and her arms slightly akimbo. Next to her, close enough to be said to be watching her suspiciously but far enough away to keep from invading her personal space, was a blond girl that matched his daughter’s description of the other vampire Slayer to a tee.
Her name was Buffy, wasn’t it?
Stepping forward, he took long military strides to Faith, glad that he had opted only for the largest carry-on bag he was allowed. He fairly abhorred the abominable wait at the luggage claim area. The closer he got to the two warrior women, the more alarmed he became. Both of them were angry, their faces saying that one wrong move could spark a fight. Every once in a while, they would glance at each other and either roll their eyes or snort. However, years of being a Marine and serving at NCIS told him that there was a great deal of animosity and hostility there.
“Faith,” he greeted gruffly.
When he distracted her attention to him, he was slightly pleased to see her stony expression blossom into a wide grin. “Big Daddy Gibbs,” she answered him.
“Where’s my daughter?”
“With Angel,” the other Slayer expression, her expression slightly pinched. “She asked me—”
“Us,” Faith interjected, her body moving into the battle-ready position again.
“Us,” Buffy sighed before moving on, “to come pick you up.”
“Angel,” Gibbs mused. His brain cast back over the various conversations he’d had with his daughter over the past few days. Angel was the souled vampire that she had admitted to have given a diluted poison. “He’s the…” He almost said the words, the very words he had been thinking, when Faith caught his gaze and pinned him down with sharp brown eyes. “The vampire?” he finished, the words thin and flimsy in his mind.
However, even though the words had come out flat, the blonde seemed not to notice. She merely nodded idly in response. “Yeah, somehow he’d gotten poisoned a couple days ago.” At that, she shot Faith a venomous look, making it quite clear who she blamed for the incident. “Will’s… feeding him.”
As the sentence echoed inside his head, Gibbs could only think of one explanation. It was a given that he was not an expert on vampires. As far as he was concerned, that particular credit belonged to his daughter. But he could see clearly in his mind images from old and cheesy vampire movies – a Nosferatu-looking creature latched onto the neck or wrist of a young and nubile woman. He shuddered in response.
Apparently, his reaction was not subtle enough to hide from the brunette Slayer at his side. “Yeah, it’s what you think.” From the tone of her voice, he could tell that Faith was not overly fond of the situation either. “Red’s got the touch, it seems.”
“Faith,” Buffy hissed quietly.
The brunette merely glared at her shorter counterpart. “She thinks it’s the magic. It must’ve counteracted the poison in the fang’s blood.”
“It’s a witch thing?” Gibbs queried, his mouth still pulling into a bemused smirk from time to time at the thought of his daughter being a witch.
As if stung, Buffy turned swiftly to look up at him. Because of her short stature, she made him think of a small kitten, hissing and spitting and never managing to look more than harmless. He had to remind himself that she was every bit as dangerous and capable as Faith had proved herself to be. “What do you know about that?”
“Back down, B,” Faith said immediately, seamlessly slipping her body between Buffy and Gibbs. “Will told him everything. You should start trusting her, don’t you think?”
Her face contorting into an unconscious sneer, Buffy merely spun on her heel and stalked out of the airport. Arching an eyebrow at the rather adolescent exit, Gibbs turned to Faith. “What’s going on?”
Faith shrugged in a noncommittal fashion, though the tight line of her shoulders revealed to him that she was worried, and she tugged gently on the sleeve of his jacket to get him to follow her lead. “I’m not sure. She left in the middle of the night last night, don’t know why. She’s helping Angel the traitor back to health, don’t know why. I just know that what Red decides is what goes and all that wolf-boy can think about is that she’s going to miss prom.”
“She’s going to miss prom?” Gibbs asked, his voice tight at the thought of his daughter missing important moments in her life. Then, after a moment, his mind zeroed in on other parts of the conversation. “Wolf-boy? What wolf-boy?”
At the question, Faith stilled suddenly, craning her neck in an extra-slow movement to look at the older man. “You know what, that’s a really long story that Willow should tell you.”
His gray eyes hardened then. “I have time,” he answered.
Angel woke slowly for the fifth time that day. His internal vampire senses told him that it was dark, that the sun had set close to two hours earlier. His periods of wakefulness throughout the day had been brief and intermittent, the redhead sleeping near his legs had made quite sure of that. He wasn’t quite sure what she had done but he had often slipped back in unconsciousness directly after realized he was indeed awake.
A sweeping glance around the room revealed four tranquilizer darts on his bedside table, easily recognizable by the green fur on the ends. Though he was somewhat angry at her attempt to keep him silent and pliant throughout the day, he also understood it. Right now, there were only two people in the world that would do whatever she asked and one of them had gone to meet her biological father at Sunnydale’s shack of an airport the last time he was aware.
With a slight tug, he pulled the intravenous tube and syringe out of his arm, abruptly slowing the feeling of power being fed directly into his veins. Sure to finish the job, he leaned forward and removed the same from Willow’s arm, though his movements were infinitely gentler when dealing with human skin. Curling the long tube into a small coil, the vampire studied the infusion kit before him and the answers that it openly gave him.
If Faith had gone to the airport to pick up Jethro Gibbs, then Xander was the only person in Willow’s life that would do what she asked and not ask questions if that was what she required. That fact on its own likely explained her use of tranquilizers. During the best of times, he and Xander merely struggled to get along. Most of the time, their conversations were combative in nature. So, instead of expecting the two of them to get along, especially when one of them was attempting to recover from a dangerous poison, the redhead chose to keep one of them unconscious.
“Where’s Buffy?” Angel asked, the words meant only for himself. He only wanted to release the words to the open air in front of him and definitely didn’t expect a response.
“At the prom, where my daughter should be.”
The vampire jerked in alarm, his demon reacting much more promptly than he did. His face shifted, the ridges and amber eyes making their presence known as he disentangled himself from his bed sheets. By the time he realized consciously that it was Willow’s biological father that had spoken, he had placed his body between Willow and the unknown speaker. By the time he let his human mask slip back into place, Jethro Gibbs had taken two steps back and drawn his gun.
“Don’t fight,” Willow said, her sluggish voice obviously marked by having dragged herself out of deep sleep. “You promised.”
With a long-suffering sigh, the man in front of Angel stowed his gun back into a shoulder holster hidden under his jacket. “I did,” he conceded in a rough voice that was obviously gentled in the face of his daughter’s wakefulness. “Does this mean you can go to the dance now?”
A few days ago, Angel would have been shocked by Willow’s scoff, the very rudeness of the sound. “Would you like to play host to Buffy?” She didn’t even raise her head to look at her father but the vampire himself was slightly amused by the man’s alarmed expression. “’Cause that’s what’ll happen if I show up at the prom. She’ll leave and come straight here.”
Angel nodded to himself. He could see Buffy doing that. He had no idea why none of the others were here, why they were obviously all dancing their hearts out at the school prom while Willow was emptying herself out for his benefit. Now that he thought about it, though, he wanted to know the reason. “Why isn’t she here anyway?” His question was quick and sharp, his voice roughened by close to three days of not speaking.
“Willow told them to go,” the older man answered in her place, having stepped forward to rub soothing circles on her back. “Gave them some cock-and-bull story about grabbing their memories wherever they could get them.” He paused, laughing softly at something. “When the little blonde wouldn’t go, she told her the process would go quicker if she wasn’t there, hovering and doing essentially nothing.”
“I didn’t tell Buffy she wasn’t doing anything,” Willow protested, her voice muffled by the bed.
Gibbs scoffed. “Might as well have.”
“Piffle.” Angel smiled slightly at the redhead and her tendency to use words that bordered on nonsensical. However, in the next second, a sound caused his ears to twitch slightly as they automatically focused on what did not belong.
Fully turning his body to the sound, he reached out with his senses to pick out the source. Later, upon retrospection, he would realize that his senses were just a little bit keener than he was used to, that his demon was a little closer to the surface with the recent influx of warm human blood that was also full of powerful magic. Now, though, he could hear footsteps crinkling and crushing the dead plants in what used to be Drusilla’s garden. He couldn’t identify the owner of the footsteps, knowing instantly that it was someone he had not spent a lot of extra time around, but could tell that whoever it was placed each footstep deliberately and carefully, as if each step was a part of a greater plan.
“Someone’s here,” he told them softly. He felt his body curl into a natural hunting stance, his recently awake brain brushing aside Gibbs’ expression of instinctual alarm. He did notice, however, how Willow seemed to come instantly awake, her body stiffening even as she tried to lay a calming hand on her father’s arm.
Angel trailed toward the garden foyer, guiding his hand along the wall as he walked. The stone lent a solid presence, helping him to calm at the idea of someone unknown intruding upon the only place in the world he had to call home. Who could it be, though? Some demon having heard of his recent debilitation? Some poor, lost Sunnydale citizen? It could be anything but he needed to be calm in the case that it was something normal and human.
Turning the corner to see who had invaded his home, Angel cursed his luck at the sight of his newest visitor. He glanced back when he felt the impending proximity of Willow and Gibbs. They both stopped dead, the redhead from shock and the older man from her death grip on his forearm.
“Miss Rosenberg, might I have a word?”
Needless to say, the Mayor had found Angel’s mansion.