Out of the Ashes
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.”
“Willow, please, sit down!” Ari laughed.
From her perch on the couch, Kate threw a pillow at her. That did briefly shut Willow up, but then she went back to babbling and pacing. She’d been dealing with her emotions by baking ever since hanging up the phone at breakfast. Dawn had kicked her out of the kitchen to go get a shower half an hour ago, when they’d gotten Ziva’s text – ETA ~30 minutes
. Ever since she’d come back downstairs, she’d been pacing.
“Anyone would think she’s the one who has to worry about being shot,” Kate muttered.
Ari looked fondly at his wife.
“No one will be shot,” he assured her. “Ziva is aware of Willow’s rule about firearms. There will be no weapons.”
“I wouldn’t count on that,” Kate retorted. “Gibbs has about the same definition of weapons as Slayers do. Not to mention, I think the girls missed a few. Or maybe they just felt like we should be able to defend ourselves if things went badly.”
She looked pointedly at the mantel, where Faith’s favorite sword was not quite hiding behind the picture frames, and the bookshelf, where someone had thoughtfully left a set of throwing stars. She was fairly sure if she pulled up the cushion she was sitting on, she’d find at least one knife had been left in the couch. That was normally against house rules- sharp things within toddler reach were a big no-no- but everyone knew Tali was off being spoiled rotten by Buffy and Xander today. And everyone was concerned.
Willow looked, and sighed.
“Faith is a little nervous, too,” she said.
“Speak of the devil,” Ari murmured, as Faith stalked in.
“I don’t like this,” she said bluntly- and not for the first time since the call. “There are people coming here who wanted to kill you last time they saw you, who only stopped trying to kill you because they thought they had killed you, and you are telling me I shouldn’t be here when they get here.”
Vi, who was normally fairly good at talking the older Slayer down when it became necessary, had retreated to the stairs, and was keeping a wary eye out for the arrival of Ziva, Gibbs, and whoever else from the NCIS crew was coming with them. Kate privately thought it was likely that Abby would be with them.
“Faith,” Kate sighed. “It’s not that we don’t want you here when they get here. We just want some privacy for a little bit. Just Willow, me, Ari, and Ziva. She’s bringing her people, too, you know. Gibbs and the others are going to be asked to go wait in the kitchen while we talk.”
That had been her idea. She was pretty sure things would get out of hand if everyone walked in and they were all in the same room at the same time. It was just too fraught. Too many people, too many emotions, too much of everything. And there were people on both sides who could potentially react badly- people who could do major damage to each other even without guns.
She still remembered how careful Buffy had been breaking the news to her about her ‘death’. They’d given things to her in small chunks, a little at a time, so it wouldn’t overwhelm her. That was what had given her the idea. Break this down and take it slowly.
“I’m warning them when they get here,” Faith said flatly, in a tone that brooked no contradiction. “Ari’s the best Watcher I’ve ever had. There’s no way me and B would ever have gotten out of that Indonesian apocalypse without him. No one hurts my Watcher!”
“Thank you, Faith, I’m touched,” Ari told her. “You may threaten them. But then perhaps you and Vi should go do something elsewhere.”
Faith was already reacting badly, although Kate was pretty sure that was just because she was feeling like her family was in danger.
The second most senior Slayer didn’t trust easily or open up often, but on one of the rare occasions when she had leveled with Kate, she had confessed it was nice having her and Ari and Tali. She felt like it gave her a family of her own. Not that Buffy and the Scoobies hadn’t wholeheartedly adopted her in the wake of Sunnydale, but Faith had never had the experience of belonging to a normal family before- the closest she had ever come had been her Watcher in Boston.
“At least you sent Tali to Slayer Central,” Faith muttered. “Cause if they did anything to her, the whole ‘no Slaying humans’ thing is off
“I suspect Ziva will wholeheartedly agree with you on that, Faith,” Ari said with a slight smile.
“They’re here!” Vi called. “Faith, come on! We’re going to look at puppies at Petco.”
Kate was fairly sure that Faith had just muttered something remarkably vile about where Vi could stick both the puppies and Petco, but she stomped out the door all the same. Kate faintly heard the sounds of her greeting someone outside- with a threat, of course. Though not one of the usual, nothing left to the imagination Scooby threats. Once, she might have been lulled into a false sense of comfort by that, but by now she knew this crew well enough to know it wasn’t a good sign. Normally they were equal measures creative and disturbingly specific with their threats.
Kate had come in for a threat of her own when she and Ari had first gotten together. Willow had threatened to beat her to death with a shovel. She’d been startled, but had come to realize that with this group, threatening on someone’s behalf was just what they did for the ones they loved. They’d waltz through hell for someone they cared about.
Of course, they had come to care about her, too. Dawn had threatened Ari a few weeks before he proposed. Kate had been surprised to discover that Dawn’s threat was the scarier one- enough to impress even a former Mossad officer. Ari had been reluctant to go into specifics at the time. She had only found out a couple years later that Dawn’s threat had involved a paralytic and the cutting off of body parts. And the possibility of fire, which was apparently her trademark.
It had explained a lot about how the younger Summers got so much respect from everyone around her, human, Slayer, and demon alike, despite a lack of Slayer abilities- especially since no one ever doubted she would carry through.
“Willow, please. Sit. Or at least breathe,” Ari begged, equal parts amused and exasperated by his normally unflappable cousin in meltdown at the prospect of Ziva’s visit.
Kate slipped her hand into her husband’s. She felt almost like she should be going to the kitchen to wait with the others. She’d never met Ziva. It was Tony and Gibbs she was most worried about facing… But Ari wanted her here, with him, when Ziva arrived. The only thing that betrayed Ari’s nerves was how tightly he held onto her as they sat on the couch waiting.
“Oh god, they’re actually here,” Willow said in a tone of utter terror, and for a wonder, sat down on the chair they’d offered Kate all those years ago. It amused Kate slightly to see that a woman who could stare down demons and apocalypses without flinching was so worked up about facing a beloved cousin who would definitely not kill her.
And then Willow shot right back up, because Ziva walked into the room. Kate could tell that she was nervous- anyone else would probably be shaking. But she was very like her brother, Kate realized, as Ziva walked toward them with her eyes fixed on Ari.
Kate wasn’t sure how it happened, but suddenly all the nervousness dissipated as Ziva closed the distance between them. Willow, Ziva, and Ari ended up in a three-way hug that was so tight that breathing might become an issue at some point, with Willow in tears and babbling, and both she and Ari apologizing to Ziva, who had unexpectedly burst into tears herself.
She smiled as she watched the family reunion, and decided they probably wouldn’t miss her for a few minutes. She knew what Willow and Ari had done, and how much the guilt from Ziva being the one to pull the trigger had been eating at both. They didn’t need her for this part of the conversation. In fact, it might go better without her.
She walked down the hall to the kitchen, knowing Willow had produced enough cookies for even a Slayer army between breakfast and Dawn banishing her to the shower. Much as she worried about facing Gibbs, she wanted to get it over with. She stopped short when she walked in.
Gibbs had shot to his feet at the sound of footsteps, and was looking at her like she was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen.
“Kate,” he said quietly. He had the same quiet tone he’d used the last time he’d spoken to her.
“Gibbs,” she said, her mouth going dry. “Hi.”
Tony was standing just behind Gibbs, looking stunned, even though he must have known the reason they were coming here.
That was the only warning she got before Abby charged in for a hug, almost knocking her off her feet.
“Oh my god, you’re pregnant!” Abby squealed as she pulled back to look at Kate. “When is the baby due? Boy or girl? Have you picked a name yet? How are you not dead? Oh my god!”
Kate was fairly sure Abby hadn’t actually stopped talking, but she couldn’t make out what she was saying because Abby was hugging her again. Tightly.
“Wow. No wonder you deal so well with Willow when she goes into babble mode,” Dawn said, sliding smoothly out of her seat and pulling it further out from the table so Kate could sit.
“Tell us about Willow,” Tony said, for once too discombobulated to do ‘charming’.
“Willow? Um, really nice, world class babbler when she’s nervous, banned from caffeine because you’d have to run what comes out of her mouth through a computer to slow it down enough for normal humans to process, likes cats, scared of frogs, pretty much the smartest person I’ve ever met,” Dawn replied without missing a beat or taking a breath.
“Yes, but how was she able to help Ari stage Caitlin’s death? And his own?” Ducky demanded. “I did those autopsies myself. I would have pounced on any sign that the body I was working on was not Caitlin. I would have staked my career on the identities of the deceased!”
Dawn looked so baffled about what to say that Kate took pity on her.
“Would it maybe help if I did introductions?” she asked, diverting the conversation. “I know Ziva and Ari know all of you, and Willow’s seen everyone but Ducky before, but Dawn’s only ever heard about you secondhand, and not in any detail.”
At Dawn’s appreciative nod, Kate smiled.
“Dawn Summers, head of Guardian’s research division, also our chief hostage negotiator.”
She knew Gibbs wondered why Dawn glared at Kate for a split second about the hostage negotiator part, but Kate continued as if she hadn’t noticed.
“Special Agent Gibbs, my boss at NCIS.”
“Does he have a first name?” Dawn asked, snagging a snickerdoodle and looking around with a frown as she realized there was still not enough counter space clear for her to sit on or even lean against without starting a cookie avalanche.
Kate smirked as Team Gibbs reacted to Dawn’s utter nonchalance.
“He does, but mostly we just call him Gibbs,” Kate replied. “The two of you should get along well. You’re both caffeine fiends who get scary when someone is foolish enough to hurt or even threaten the people close to you.”
At Gibbs’ raised eyebrow, she smiled.
“Ask Dawn what she threatened my then future husband with shortly before he proposed.”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“Please. It’s Scooby SOP to threaten the significant others of our own. It wasn’t even the scariest threat I’ve ever made.”
“You threatened Ari?” McGee blurted out.
“Of course I did. We all did. Mine was just the best.”
“Wait, everyone threatened him?” Kate demanded. “Why have I never heard this before now?”
“Probably because he laughed at the idea of Willow beating anyone to death with a shovel, can figure out how to keep Buffy from getting close enough to rip out his ribcage, knows he could totally game Xander cause hello, depth perception issues, and Faith decided that she was on his side and should threaten you instead,” Dawn replied.
“What did you threaten him with?” Gibbs asked curiously.
“Told him I know someone who works for the military that could get me a fast-acting paralytic, no questions asked, and I’d start by removing a few parts he would definitely miss.”
Catching the disbelieving and quizzical looks the NCIS team was giving her, she rolled her eyes.
“Everyone has to sleep sometime, people.”
Gibbs grinned. He liked the way this kid thought.
“There was fire involved,” Kate prompted.
“Oh, yeah, but that wasn’t until after he drank the smoothie,” Dawn said blithely.
“Smoothie?” Abby whispered to McGee.
“Don’t think about it too hard, Abbs,” DiNozzo ground out.
Abby’s eyes widened.
A glance showed Gibbs that the other males in the room were all trying to subtly cross their legs and edge further away from Dawn Summers, the world’s most cheerful psychopath.
The girl in question met DiNozzo’s appalled glance with a quizzical look.
“What? A vague disclaimer is nobody’s friend!”
“You’re right,” he told Kate, “I think we’ll get along just fine.”