“Who was that, Boss?” Tony asked idly, his eyes deceptively focused on a deceased Marine’s photo in his hand.
Gibbs pinned the younger agent with a hard glare. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business, DiNozzo.”
Tony held his hands up as a sign of surrender, an amused smile on his lips. “It’s not.” He left the subject alone. If they hadn’t recently lost the only other agent in the Major Crimes Unit, he would have pushed the issue a little but he was the only target for Gibbs’ random bouts of rage as it was. He was beginning to think that too many smacks to the back of his head might cause brain damage.
Gibbs gazed at Tony for another moment, the sharpness in his eyes leeching out slowly. “It’s fine,” he bit out after a moment. “I just have family coming to visit this week.”
Tony’s eyes lit up, finally connecting with the older man’s gaze. “Really?” He sounded too excited for Gibbs’ liking. “What’re they like?”
Gibbs grunted quietly, feeling a low level of frustration filling him. “Go to the morgue, see if Ducky is done with the body. I need to talk to Abby.”
His instructions given, long military strides took Gibbs to the elevator. His body tended to fall back on training when he was irritated or frustrated, which was quite often around the other agent. It was at the elevator that he realized that Tony was following him, since the morgue was on a lower level.
“Take the stairs, DiNozzo,” he instructed in a low voice. Even Gibbs knew his fuse was particularly short today and there was a niggling feeling in the back of his head that all those feelings that he thought he had left at home this morning were still there, jabbing and poking and shredding his patience.
Tony’s response to Gibbs’ tone was immediate, as he turned on his heel away from his boss and toward the nearest access to the stairwell.
Smirking a little, Gibbs stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for Basement Level One. The morgue was a couple floors lower in the building, so it might a few minutes before Tony even made it to the morgue. He just wanted to check on the evidence to satisfy a hunch he had.
However, once he entered the forensic scientist’s lab, CafPow in hand, he was assaulted by a flurry of sign language, followed by what sounded like it may have been a “thank you” when Abby snatched the large cup from his hands. He stopped for a moment, trying to register what she had said with her hands.
‘Awesome?’ he signed back, for a moment distracted from the more important task at hand. ‘Who’s awesome?’
Abby smiled brightly around the straw in her mouth and then sat the cup on a nearby table, the back of her mind making sure it wasn’t the evidence table. ‘Your daughter, Willow. She’s an anonymous software consultant.’
‘Anonymous implies that people don’t know who she is.’
Abby shrugged. ‘Everything leaves a trail.’ She reflected briefly to herself that she had noticed some odd things that coincided with what of Willow’s Internet trail that she could follow. The fact that she had difficulty following the trail immediately spoke that Willow knew what she was doing, implying that she could hack relatively well. Her trail left some tracks on some very odd websites, though.
Well, odd to most people. Abby smiled to herself. From the trail that she could follow, she knew that she and Willow would get along very well.
Gibbs narrowed his eyes slightly at the Goth. She was being oddly cryptic and simple in her answer but now was not the time. He had a dead Marine, a pile of evidence and an itch that only a successful arrest could scratch. “The evidence?” he inquired after a moment.
Abby shrugged, her eyes glazing over in boredom. “It’s open-and-shut, mostly. The perp’s prints and DNA are all over everything.” She paused. “I love that word, don’t you? Perp. Perp, perp, perp.”
“Abby,” Gibbs ground out sharply, trying to get her mind back on track.
She sighed. He was rude today. Maybe he would be better after this thing with his daughter was settled. Or maybe it was the dead Marine. She snorted to herself. She loved Gibbs but he was hard to read sometimes. “It’s totally incriminating. No jury could shut it down.”
Gibbs sighed. It was time to go down to the morgue. Yet another tangent waiting for him that he might have problems following… “Okay, Abby. I need you to match the DNA—”
“Done,” she interjected quickly. “It matches to this guy with a record longer than my arm.” She held out her arm and looked at it critically. “You know, figuratively speaking. I found his most recent address.” She moved over to her desk and rifled through some of the papers stacked next to her computer. “In case that goes hinky, I printed the list of known associates.” She handed the information to Gibbs. “Good luck and don’t worry,” she added with a pointed look.
Gibbs snorted softly as he turned to leave, knowing that she wasn’t talking about the case.
Faith stared at the bracelet on her wrist. It looked like a dorky hemp friendship bracelet, something the dark Slayer wouldn’t have worn on her own. However, it was yet another temporary measure against the sorcery the Mayor tended to perform on her when she was out of reach of Willow’s shield. It was braided with brown and purple threads and a length of Willow’s hair.
The older girl had explained the purpose of each element of the bracelet. The brown thread invoked the protection of hearth and home and the purple thread was intended to promote mental clarity. The witch’s hair would attempt to employ the shield at a distance. Willow had warned her that the spell would be very weak and that some of the compulsions might make it past the barrier of protection created by the bracelet.
She looked up at the sound of the key turning in her door and reminded herself of the cover story for the bracelet. The Mayor knew her well enough to know that she wasn’t a hemp-bracelet kind of person. Personally, she felt it was a good story, a good lie.
It had really surprised Faith when she fully realized how good of a liar Willow was.
Her hand moved to twist at the bracelet, a small nervous tic, but she stopped herself almost immediately. She hadn’t been able to stop fidgeting with the damned thing when Willow had fastening it, something the redhead had halted with a single baleful glare. Geez, but that girl had some pent-up anger inside.
“Faith?” the Mayor called out uncertainly.
Jerking back to the here and now, Faith realized she had met him in the foyer like usual. She’d been too caught in her thoughts. That wasn’t good, breaking the routine. She needed to watch herself closer before he started to notice. “In here, Boss,” she responded quickly.
She registered the gentle and measured footsteps of the Mayor as he maneuvered through her apartment to her bedroom. The propriety wasn’t what worried her, for that wasn’t something she often worried about, but it was the lie. Almost too simple. Surely, the Mayor could see through such a ruse.
“What’s that?” he asked immediately, his eyes drawn to the ring of thread and ginger hair. It was so obviously not something Faith would wear, it was too… something. Natural? Pastel? Witchy?
Faith smiled a little, her eyes finally rising to the Mayor’s eye level. She was careful, so very careful, to not directly meet his gaze. She doubted he noticed, though, because she had noticed that his caution was diminished with the onset of his temporary invincibility. “Willow made it for me.” And she had warned emphatically that meeting his eyes while this weak safeguard was in place would possibly shatter the shield’s effects.
She was inclined to believe the witch, especially since her former Watcher’s warnings had all but instructed the young Slayer to do as Willow said.
The Mayor stared at the bracelet for a long moment. “It’s spelled,” he declared in a numb voice.
“Yeah.” Faith nodded and watched the man’s eyes go flat, something in her shivering when she felt she could almost see something else lurking behind those human eyes, something decidedly not Slayer-friendly. “It’s supposed to protect me on my patrols. She said she had to use a piece of herself to ensure the power of the spell, or something.”
A smile slowly blossomed across the Mayor’s face. “She’s brilliant,” he murmured, his eyes still gazing at the elements of the bracelet. However, now those eyes were alight with delight. Faith wasn’t sure whether she should be alarmed or relieved. “Martin returned my call.”
Faith affected boredom again. His tone implied that it was the wizard but her “normal” behavior made sure that no one felt she was burdened with an abundance of brainpower. “Who’s that?”
“The wizard.” The Mayor finally moved to sit in a strong wicker chair on one wall of the bedroom. “He sent me the ritual for clarity.” He smiled gently when Faith felt her face scrunch slightly in confusion. “It’s for visions that are contained in the subconscious mind. It will allow her to see the entire vision as a whole.”
Faith forced her face to relax, even though she was still a little unbalanced by how fast everything was happening. “That’s good. She’ll want to do that before we go to D.C.”
The Mayor frowned deeply. “D.C.?” he echoed uncertainly. Faith almost smiled – it had probably been a long time since the sorcerer had been uncertain about something. He pulled himself together pretty quickly, though. “You’re leaving?” Now, his voice was hard and inquisitive.
Faith closed her eyes. Why couldn’t she learn some kind of diplomacy? Sure, it wasn’t in her nature but things would go a hell of a lot smoother if she knew how to explain herself the right way with a little sugar on top. Like the Mayor or Willow could… “The family problems, remember?”
He leaned forward slightly. They hadn’t spoken since Saturday because the Mayor spent Sunday as a day to commit to the community. No better day to be seen by the respectable member of Sunnydale than the Sabbath. “She told you, then?” His face had become extremely concerned and Faith couldn’t tell if it was genuine or not. “It’s not bad, I hope?”
Faith shrugged. “I guess not. She found out that her dad isn’t her biological father. It’s actually this Marine guy that works for the government. NCIS, I think? She wants me to go with her.”
The Mayor’s lips quirked into a ghost of a smile. She’d seen the expression before – it was a smile held back by a frown. “Why not her boyfriend? Or…” He paused and then snapped his fingers, remembering the name that had slipped his mind for a moment. “Alexander Harris?”
Faith laughed dryly. “She hasn’t told them yet. The whole situation has made her quiet.” Her worry over how these events had changed Willow at her core was apparent on her face.
The Mayor’s face melted into a gentle smile. Faith’s very real concern made him care for Willow even more. Even though the lithe redhead was a little late to the game, he was very glad for her alliance, doubly so for her seeming commitment to the friendship with Faith.
“Very well.” The Mayor stood, reaching into the inside pocket of his suit. He pulled out a couple sheets of paper, upon which were the detailed instructions for the ritual, and a necklace that he had bought for Willow on a whim. It was a green-and-black mottled stone on a delicate gold chain. He had been sure to leave it unenchanted. Though Willow was young and mostly a novice at magic, she learned quickly and was very powerful as well. She would feel any kind of spell he would be inclined to place on such an artifact. To keep her trust, it was merely a piece of jewelry for another adopted daughter. The ritual, however, was keeping his promise. The spell was for an untainted witch, a magic-user that had yet to delve into the darker edges of the magic world. Martin had been sure to let him know that the fires of dimensional magic would sear his soul if he tried to attempt this ritual. Though his soul was rapidly altering from that of a magic-user to that of a demon, he didn’t plan to risk it.
“What’s this?” Faith asked, her eyebrow quirked slightly.
“The ritual and a gift.”
Faith lifted the necklace out of the Mayor’s hand and peered at it critically. “It’s not really my style, Boss.”
In turn, he took it from her hand and set both it and the ritual on a nearby table. “Of course it isn’t. It’s for Willow, as a gesture of my undying gratitude.” He emphasized the word “undying” slightly with a small grin.
“Funny, Boss.” She nodded, her face open and smiling again. “All right, I’ll take this stuff to her tonight.”
With a gentle smile and fatherly kiss to the top of her head, the Mayor left and Faith sighed in relief. “Well, okay.” She eyed the necklace again. “I hope she likes it.”