Willow’s personal memories of the Mayor’s office were filled with defiance and fear. Just walking in felt so wrong. Seeing the Mayor smile at her in that clean way made her feel disturbed. She made a quick prayer to the Goddess to keep her safe and ensure that her friends never find out, though that last bit was highly unlikely.
“Miss Rosenberg.” The Mayor leaned forward, his smile widening. “May I call you Willow?”
Willow nodded as she lowered herself into a seat in front of the Mayor’s desk. Faith remained by the door, leaning guardedly against the wall. “Yeah, that’s fine.” Inside, she was jittery, something like when she drank a large cup of coffee.
“Faith here tells me you had a vision, is that right?”
Willow bobbed her head once. “Yep. I guess it’s kind of a continuing vision. I keep seeing things that haven’t happened or might happen.”
He steepled his fingers and Willow could feel something pushing against her skin. Was this what Faith was talking about, this constant push? Was this what a compulsion felt like? In the back of her mind, she thanked the Goddess that she had found the shielding spell and glad that she had figured out a way to keep other magic-users from detecting it. In retrospect, that had most been to hide her extensive magic use from Giles. It hurt to have him disapprove of the one thing that made her feel more than just reliable.
“How do you mean?”
Willow snapped herself out of dark thoughts into which her mind had begun to descend. “Since last night, whenever I look at Buffy, I get these flashes.” She felt something like a block lodge in her throat when she thought of what she had seen less than an hour ago. “Xander was hurt badly.” Behind her, she could hear Faith shifting. She wondered if she was remembering strangling Xander and if she felt remorse about it now.
The Mayor settled back in his seat. “So, you’re coming to me about the magic, then?”
Willow inclined her head. “I need help, yes. This seems like something I shouldn’t try to do on my own.”
He smiled to himself. “And you have learned how to do so much on your own.” The smile fell from his face and Willow could see the business-like seriousness in his eyes. “You realize I will expect things in return.”
She nodded, the jittery feeling finally calming down to a gently thrumming anxiety. This was like the talks with her parents, where she was just as adult as them. “Yes, I understand. What did you want?”
“Just… information. Faith is fully capable of all my hands-on jobs. I just need to know little things, like how close they are to figuring out the rituals.”
Willow snorted loudly, followed by slapping her hands over her face to cover the noise. She laughed nervously and fluttered her hands in an indication for him to continue.
The Mayor gave her an open expression and an encouraging smile. “Yes? Tell me.” There was a command there but he kept his tone gentle enough that it came off as a suggestion.
“Just, y’know, they’ve got no idea.” Willow internally cringed. She had to give him enough that he wouldn’t suspect she was ultimately telling him nothing but at the same time, she had to be believable. “Last night, with the Box of Gavrok, that was our best, probably our only chance. Wesley keeps going on and on about how impossible this is going to be. Something about pure demons, I think?”
“Ahh. But you have information now.”
Her hands fluttered to her chest and then away in a nervous gesture. “I can’t tell them about this. They would crucify me.”
“Last night, Red,” Faith hissed under her breath.
Willow glanced back at the Slayer and then at the Mayor, smiling slowly in realization. “Oh, right, last night with the books. That’s a good point but they can’t expect to rely on what’s in my head, not with what’s going on at home.”
The Mayor frowned in concern and the redhead could see how he was elected for multiple terms in office. “What’s going on at home?” She watched his eyes scan her and she automatically knew he was looking for signs of abuse. Of course, for Willow, all the scars and bruises were on the inside and sometimes self-inflicted.
She pulled in on herself a little, hunching her shoulders in a small sign of emotional shielding. “It’s personal.”
At that, Faith stepped forward. “Nothing like that, Boss. The parentals were bickering when we left her house. She hasn’t told me why yet.”
He nodded to himself. “It might be a few days before I can find a good ritual for your vision. I’m sure you don’t wish to dip into the kind of rituals I do but I have a wizard friend in Canada. I’ll contact him.”
Willow smiled at him. “Thanks. We should get going, though.”
He smiled broadly at them. “Have fun, girls.”
As the door shut behind them, Faith looked at Willow. “What was that about this morning, anyway?”
Willow sighed heavily. “Okay, I’ll tell you but no judging.”
Faith smirked. “Never.”
Gibbs looked at the phone in his hand before pressing it back to his ear. “Can you say that again?” he ground out past his clenched teeth.
There was a small, tinny chuckle as a response. “I believe you heard me the first time.”
Ira had always been congenial, wanting to find humor to situations that could get too serious. It was usually a relief but just now, it irked him a bit. “Ira, why are you telling me this now? You’ve had years to tell me.”
The Jewish man on the other end of the phone sighed but the manner in which he did it told Gibbs that there was still a smile on his face. “You don’t have to sound so exasperated, Jethro.”
“I told you, Ira,” Gibbs could hear in the background. He knew it was Sheila not by the voice but by the tone. Some of the psychologists on the Navy Yard went to her lectures. “The big Marine doesn’t want his own daughter.” He could hear shifting and something musical, like ice clinking against glass.
“Sit down, Sheila.” Gibbs shifted his eyes down at the phone, giving it a shocked look. He had never heard Ira use that tone of voice before. “Now, there are a couple reasons I’m telling you this now,” Ira said to Gibbs, a slight mocking tone to his voice. “First and foremost, Willow is graduating in a few weeks and she deserved to know.”
“I deserved to know!” Gibbs barked into the phone.
There was an empty silence for a few seconds and the former Marine wondered if he’d overstepped a line and caused another breach. However, Ira spoke again in a low tone. “No, you didn’t. Let me be clear – you cheated on your wife with mine. Sheila may be at fault for coercing a drunken Marine but Willow is my daughter!”
The volume of Ira’s voice had steadily increased until the last four words had reached a solid, vice-like quality. Gibbs likened it in his mind like smacking into a steel wall. It effectively forced him down into a sitting position on his couch, despite the physical distance between them. “You’re right,” he ground out slowly, almost hating the words themselves.
There was a deep intake of breath. “She deserved to know and she believes she will choose to attend a university in D.C.”
“She’ll be here?” Gibbs could feel some inner part of him burst open and recoil down into a ball at the same time.
“Very close, yes. She spoke of Georgetown.” Silence fell again for a few seconds. Gibbs could the rift between them growing again, for Ira had regressed to merely being civil again. “She felt she could more easily keep in touch with us if she attended an East Coast school.”
He was about to respond, to ask if they were all going to meet sometime before she began attending college when he heard the small, hollow sound of a door opening on Ira’s end. “I said, no judging.”
“Wasn’t judging, Red. But it’s kinda funny, if you think about it.”
He heard a small giggle and then he could almost feel the silence. “Is Mom drunk?”
“I’ll say. You want me to take her up, Mr. Rosenberg?”
“No. I’ll do it. Willow, take this.”
There was the echoing sound of a telephone receiver changing hands. “Is it him?”
“Yes, just talk to him.”
He heard faint footsteps and guessed that Sheila had fallen unconscious under the influence of the alcohol she had imbibed. “Faith, you do it.”
A girl laughed. “Why should I? He’s your dad.”
“Fine.” The phone changed hands again and Gibbs sighed. He was starting to feel like a toy in a game of Keep Away. “Hello?”
“You must be Red’s dad. I’m Faith.”
“Faith, where did Ira go?” He could feel himself talking to her like she was a little girl but she sounded so young, at least as young as Abby. Likely, she was quite a bit younger.
She snorted. “Took the missus to bed… in the sleeping way. Not the naughty kinky way,” she finished quickly. “Oh, there he is.”
“Dad, this is Faith,” he heard Willow say softly. He must have given her that confused look, that one that blatantly said he didn’t know someone.
“Nice to meet you.” The phone changed hands again and Gibbs sighed. “Jethro?”
“Expect us in a week.” The dull sound of the dial tone followed and Gibbs knew that Ira had hung up the phone. After a moment of listening to that drone, he moved the phone away from his ear and placed it on its receiver.
Cute little Willow, whose pictures looked so much like Kelly, was his. Gibbs shook his head of the thought immediately. Ira had been right – Willow belonged to Ira, not him. She was lucky to have grown up with a man not haunted by loss or gone more often than not. Abby was the closest he ever came to having a daughter again and the way that Willow had acted upon being told that he was on this end of the line, maybe it was better that it stay that way.
Sighing, he shifted to lay down on the couch, his piercing eyes almost glaring at the ceiling. He would talk to Abby about this on Monday, maybe even signing it so that he could tell her and keep it from Tony at the same time.
That thought made him smile.