Angel paced the length of his mansion on Crawford Street in Sunnydale, his eyes flicking to the doorway idly. He had been awake since midday, having had another nightmare about Buffy. He knew what it was about. He loved the blonde Slayer deeply but the two of them attached as they were was painful and selfish. So far, he’d had nightmares about her bursting into flame, being stake, beheaded and tortured. By far, the worse ones were tied between the evisceration and the one with her tied to an inverted cross with the sun rising over the horizon.
He shook his head. All these dreams had Buffy taking on the weaknesses of a vampire. He knew all the symbolism and it was obvious what these dreams meant.
He was trying to let her go.
The vampire turned on his heel to face the doorway, very surprised to see Willow and Faith. Arching an eyebrow, he attempted to pick up what was going on. Just last night, the dark Slayer had been holding the redhead at knifepoint. Now, they looked almost… close. Something big had happened.
“What’s going on?”
Faith rolled her eyes, cocking her hip in a slightly defiant gesture. “This is a waste of time, Red.”
“You promised,” Willow reminded the Slayer in a tired voice.
“What’s going on?” Angel asked again, irritation showing through his tone easily.
Faith ignored him and gazed in concern at the redhead. “It’ll be okay, yeah?”
This time, Willow rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I’ve just… I’ve never seen either of them like that.”
Angel could see that the concern on Faith’s face was genuine, which was both surprising and not at the same time. Some part of him had already altered to see the rogue Slayer as Buffy did, as a liar and a killer. God love her, he thought, but Buffy had a very strong set of blinders sometimes.
“What happened?” he asked softly, moving to close the distance between himself and the girls.
Willow shook her head and brushed past him, clearly not wanting to talk about it. In the years since he’d been Willow, he’d never known her to be this silent. He knew that if he waited, the words would follow, purging out of her like water out of an overpressurized heater.
“Leave her alone for a bit, okay? She’s had a long day.”
Angel didn’t know how to respond, really. Deep inside, he knew that Faith wasn’t nearly as evil and mean as everyone seemed to want to think. However, the change seemed sudden, especially after the stressful night before. “I don’t get it,” he said finally.
She stared at him, looking into his eyes as if she were looking for something. “I want to apologize. You know, for trying to take your soul and manipulate you. It was wrong of me.” She gulped slightly and he thought maybe it was because it was hard for her to say those things. “What don’t you get?”
“You were trying to kill her last night.” Angel could feel an irrational part deep inside starting to panic. Was this a trick? A trap? What else could possibly go wrong? “You work for the Mayor!”
“Yeah, so?” With each word that the souled vampire spoke, Faith could feel herself growing more and more angry. Diana would be rolling over in her nonexistent grave at this loss of control. “At least he appreciates what I do. At least he pretends he’s happy that I work for him.”
“He’s using you!” Angel felt exasperated and from the tension emanating from his skull, his face was wanting to shift.
“I know!” Faith yelled before passing a hand over her face. “I know, okay? It was stupid and now I’m stuck.”
“We’re stuck,” Willow corrected from the far edge of the large room. Watching the back-and-forth between Faith and Angel was becoming painful. The flashes were coming back again but were more like background noise. With Buffy, it was like being slapped across the face but she was starting to realize that the flashes weren’t confined to just that Slayer. However, with anyone else, it was like someone whispering a secret into her ear.
Watching this argument, she could see it. A fight, horrible and fierce and not the first. Faith crying in the pouring rain with Wesley watching from above, his face bloody and his glare terrible. She blinked the image away, not wanting to know. These images of the future would piece themselves together into a horrifying tapestry later when she let her mind stray that way but for now, she would force ignorance.
Angel’s face was fierce at the implication but he remained silent, waiting for one or the other of the girls to clarify what Willow meant.
Willow was about to explain what she meant when Faith shook her head very slightly. So she immediately blurted out the only other thing that was really on her mind. “My dad’s not my dad.”
It worked to distract the vampire, even though the witch knew that he was only letting it pass and it would probably come up later. “What do you mean?”
Faith snorted. “Red’s mom diddled a Marine.”
Willow giggled softly before clearing her throat. “My dad’s always been sterile, he told me this morning.” She pulled a face as she said it. “So, she found someone else.”
“Does Buffy know?” Both Willow and Faith rolled their eyes. Of course, that would be his first question.
“No, and you can’t tell her about any of this.” Remembering what he had asked her to do during that situation with Ford, something that had been completely against her character at the time, she added, “You owe me this.”
Defiance and concern warred on Angel’s face before it finally settled on something resembling resignation. “Okay, but you should probably leave. She might be here soon.”
Willow nodded and headed toward the doorway, smiling weakly at the vampire on the way.
“And Faith?” Angel called out.
She had been scowling, expecting a reprimand, but her face softened into a surprised smile at those two words. “For what?”
“For the apology, which I accept, and for watching after Willow. I didn’t expect that.”
Faith’s smile broadened slightly. “Neither did I.” She followed the redhead out the doorway, feeling a little better about herself.
Once they were a good distance away from the mansion, far enough away that Faith was sure they were out of Angel’s earshot, she asked, “You want me to go with you?”
Willow nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”
TWO DAYS LATER…
For the entirety of Sunday, Gibbs had run the emotional gamut from deep sadness to rage to empty resignation. By the time he walked into Abby’s lab Monday morning, he was determined and just a little motivated. He had been sure to stop by the CafPow machine on the way, even though the gesture itself was likely to put the scientist on guard.
Which he got a taste of when she spotted the 44-ounce plastic cup in his hands.
“Gibbs! You brought me a CafPow!” There was a brief pause, in which she took a breath and her face took on the look of suspicion. “Why did you bring me a CafPow? Do we have a case? Did you go yet? Is it gross? Does Ducky know?”
Gibbs chuckled and set the CafPow in front of her. “No, Abby. I just need a favor.”
The dark-haired Goth took a long drink and gazed at the former Marine with large eyes, unknowingly emulating a child. “Anything for my Gibbs. What do you need?”
At that question, Gibbs glanced back at the doorway, his gaze lifted slightly upward. Maybe he was paranoid but in this age of constant technology, anything could be monitored. He glared gently at the camera before turning back to face Abby. ‘I need a DNA test ready. I have a daughter,’ he signed expertly with his hands.
“WHAT?!” she screeched loudly, her shock evidently. Gibbs rewarded her with a wry smile and pointed at his hand, indicating that he wanted her to sign. Abby coughed nervously and signed back at him. ‘I mean, WHAT?!’ She exploded her hand out from the last word, still managing to convey her shock.
‘It’s complicated,’ he signed, a frown pulling the lines of his face downward.
‘Which wife?’ Abby asked eagerly.
‘None of them.’
She pulled a confused face at the thought and then pinned the older man with a wry look. ‘You’re not going to talk about it, are you?’
He smiled and kissed the top of her head. “Good girl,” he murmured aloud against her hair.
‘When does it need to be ready?’
‘End of the week.’
‘So, we get to meet her?’
Gibbs chuckled at the hopeful expression on Abby’s face. ‘I suppose.’
‘I bet she’s cute. How old is she? What’s her name?’
‘Her name is Willow Rosenberg. She’s eighteen.’
Abby’s face exploded back into shock again but she didn’t have time to sign a reply because Gibbs cell phone rang in just that moment. He smiled gently at the scientist and answered the phone, barking his name as the greeting. Abby watched him as he listened to the call and only made noncommittal noises as his responses.
He flipped the cell phone closed after a few minutes of what seemed to be a mostly one-sided conversation and pointed at the CafPow. “Now, we have a case,” he said before leaving the Goth alone in her lab.
A broad smile on her face, Abby’s hands flew across her keyboard, entering the name Gibbs had given her into various search engines. Research was always a scientist’s best friend, after all. Besides, hadn’t she heard that name somewhere before?
Willow opened the door to her house tiredly, only mildly surprised to see her mother in the dining room. Sheila was staring at a glass of scotch or bourbon, Willow didn’t know which. For all she knew, it could’ve been cognac and she wouldn’t have known the difference. She really didn’t want to find out, though.
“How was your day, sweetie?” Her mother’s voice was only slightly lethargic and Willow knew that she was still mostly sober. This new drinking habit was a little unnerving but she could deal with it.
“It was okay, I guess. The seniors’ last day is going to be on Wednesday. I think Xander’s getting worried, though. Apparently, I’ve been ‘quiet’.”
Sheila nodded, pushing the glass of alcohol away. “You should tell him and that Bunny person too. This kind of secret could ruin a friendship.”
Willow could feel a snide reply building in her throat but pushed it away easily. “I will, Mom. I just didn’t want to deal with it today.” She paused, clearing her throat. “You haven’t bought the airline tickets yet, have you?”
Finally, Sheila turned to face her daughter, a small smile gracing her face. “That’s what I wanted to talk about. Your father told me your stage fright hasn’t waned and that we would be exacerbating it by attending. As long as you can have someone record the ceremony, I will be fine with not attending.”
Willow nodded. “I can manage that. I’m sure Mr. Giles will be able to handle a camcorder for me.”
“Okay. Then Ira and I will be staying in D.C. rather than return to Sunnydale. As such, I would like you to have someone with you for the trip back as well for emotional support. If you need it.”
Willow smiled softly. At least she knew her mother cared, no matter how her aloofness seemed to incline otherwise. “I already asked Faith. She said she can go.”
“I like her. She’s very polite.”
Willow had to suppress a snort and managed to only broaden her smile. “Yeah. But… there’s the prom this weekend too.”
“We’ll leave after your last day, then.” Sheila stood up and looked around, indicating to Willow that she was trying to remember where she left her cell phone. “I’ll call the airline.”
Willow gulped. “Should I call Mr. Gibbs?”
Sheila nodded distractedly. “Yes, thank you. His number should be in your father’s address book.”
Nodding, the younger redhead walked upstairs to her parents’ bedroom, idly wondering where her father was. Probably with some of his friends from the synagogue, as he generally did during his brief stints of being home. She hoped his anger had passed because she wasn’t sure how long she could take the silences.
On each side of her parents’ king-size bed was an end table with a single small drawer and a table lamp. Her mother’s table was usually adorned by whatever psychology journal she was reading at the time and the drawer contained odd paperwork, such as her itinerary for the next year (obviously subject to change) and an attraction guide for the United States. Her father’s table had his personal leatherbound, gold-lined copy of the Torah and his drawer contained his address book and various theology conferences being held by the circuit that was nearest physically to her mother’s psychology conferences.
Opening the drawer and removing the address book, she moved to the double dresser on the far edge of the room and grabbed the cordless phone from the receiver that sat there. She sat on the edge of the bed and flipped open the book to the G’s. It was easy to find, Jethro Gibbs’ name was situated just above Father Grayson of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Boston. There was a home phone number and a cell phone number. There was a note next to the cell number. ‘If before 1900 on weekday, call cell. Don’t leave message. Keep calling till answer.’
Thankful to her father for his self-notes, she dialed the cell phone number and waited. On the first round, there was no answer and Willow had to fight the instant reaction of leaving a voicemail. As such, she accidentally left a two-second message of empty air. She called again and got an answer.
“Gibbs,” a gruff voice barked.
Willow cleared her throat nervously. “Mr. Jethro Gibbs?” She wanted to clarify before she went into full babble mode.
“This is him.” The voice didn’t really soften, per se, but it didn’t seem impatient.
“Oh, good. This is Willow. Ira’s daughter. Um, your daughter, really, I guess. I just wanted to call to tell you when we’ll be flying to the Capitol.”
This time, the man’s voice had softened considerably, though there was still some tightness there. “Okay, then. When will that be?”
“Late Wednesday or early Thursday. Should we meet you at the NCIS headquarters? Is it hard to get on the Navy Yard? We all need ID, right?”
He chuckled softly. “Yeah, meet me here. It shouldn’t be too difficult.”
Willow frowned, getting the impression that he was keeping his responses vague for a reason. “Are there people listening to your conversation?”
He laughed this time, a full round sound that made him sound almost happy. “Yeah.”
Willow smiled slightly. “Okay, we’ll see you then, okay? Um, I said that twice, didn’t I? Anyway, I’ll try to call your cell when we land. Okay, yeah, bye.”
“Bye,” Gibbs managed just before she hung up the phone in her fluster.
Smiling to herself, Willow put the address book and the phone back in their respective places and walked to her room to do some last-minute light studying for the second half of her finals. “That wasn’t so bad,” she murmured to herself.