Willow couldn’t pick up Faith was reacting to until they stepped inside the house, but once they did, she could hear it loud and clear. It sounded like Dawn was in the middle of a meltdown reminiscent of her teenage years- not that it wasn’t understandable. Parental abandonment was a trigger for her, as was anything to do with her mother’s death. And like her sister, people hurting her family usually lit her fuse. It wouldn’t have taken much to set her off after the morning she’d had.
Faith dropped the suitcase in the front hall, and they walked into the spacious library area, which doubled as the living room for the personnel in residence. Dawn seemed to be focused on Giles. Willow wondered if something Giles had said had set Dawn off, or if she’d just snapped once they were safely inside the house. Xander had retreated to a couch out of the line of fire, probably after having seen an attempt to mediate go down in flames.
“Dawn, I understand your anger-“ Giles was saying, only to be cut off.
“No, Giles, I don’t think you do understand!” Dawn snapped. “This is not ok. In fact, this is beyond not ok. This is so far into ‘what the everloving fuck’ that I don’t even have words, and believe me, after Glory, it takes a hell of a lot to do that. And stop telling me to calm down, because I don’t think it’s humanly possible to be calm right now! I would know, because thanks to the Council, I have a whole lifetime of practice at being calm in circumstances no human being, let alone a scared kid, should ever be in!”
“That’s not fair, D,” Faith said quietly.
“No, it’s not, but it never has been, has it?” Dawn demanded. “It’s never been fair- to any of us. Buffy, you , me… we never had any choice. No one ever asked. They just dumped the weight of the world on us and stepped back to see if we’d manage to not get crushed. I mean, it’s right there in their job description, isn’t it- Watchers.”
Dawn spat the word like a curse.
“Dawn, Giles wasn’t-“ Willow began soothingly.
“I know. Giles wasn’t calling the shots in the Old Council,” Dawn interrupted. “And maybe in a little while I’ll be able to deal with him. But right now, I just can’t. Especially when he says ridiculous things like ‘calm down’. Right now, I look at him and I see something that’s awful close to a target, because that’s what I really want right now. A target. And don’t anyone even try to tell me rule twenty-two, because it doesn’t apply. Not to the Council. You sign on that dotted line and you’ve gone beyond human rules.”
“Dawn, this is not the way you want to do this,” came a new voice.
Her name was said in various tones of relief by the rest of the room, except for Dawn, who was too into her tirade to do more than shift her attention to the doorway as her sister stepped into the room.
“Guess I missed something,” Buffy said, walking into the room and dropping something that looked suspiciously like an old-school lunchbox onto the coffee table. “Because it sounded an awful lot like the baby sister I gave my life for is seriously talking about doing something that would put her on the wrong side of the good guys/bad guys line. I did not die for you so you could go vigilante and start killing people. Even Travers’ people. I know the mother that raised us would feel like a failure if she heard what I just did. And I’m pretty sure our mom- the one who seems to want us to see our dad in a non-handcuffs and jumpsuits wearing kind of way- wouldn’t be too happy either.”
Dawn flinched like she’d been slapped, but Buffy had gone straight for the jugular. She’d heard just enough to know there was nothing else that was sure to make Dawn stand down right now.
“I get it, Dawn,” she continued. “I really do. She was my mother, too. They took me away from her, they took every memory I had of her, and they didn’t care if she lived or died as long as they got what they wanted. Except someone seems to have thrown a spanner in the works, because they didn’t get their Potential, did they, Giles?”
“No,” Giles said, cautiously replacing the glasses he’d been fiercely cleaning. “They did not. As I was telling Dawn, while the Council did attempt to remove you from your parents, according to Council records, the extraction team failed- Kelly Gibbs was killed in the car crash along with her mother. And unlike NIS, the Council would have been able to verify your supposed death using magic- the spells that locate Potentials should have revealed your continued survival. They did not. Clearly there is something more to the story that we are still missing- some other party was involved.”
Buffy nodded. She’d already worked out that much. It seemed like whoever had given her to Joyce had been trying to protect her in their own twisted way. She didn’t know if they’d been unable to save her mom or they had been as cold as the Council. But they’d kept her safe from Travers until there was no more hiding what she was.
That was when it hit her- the woman who had inspired the name of the Council’s new public face. “We hid, too. We had to, until now. We’re the last surprise.”
She’d said the Scythe was hidden. The Guardians were hidden- women who wanted to help her and protect her. But Buffy was suddenly certain the Guardian had known that Buffy had been hidden. Was there more the Guardian had meant to tell her before Caleb’s fatal interruption?
They hid me from the Watchers
, she thought. I wasn’t the Council’s, I was theirs. Hidden until I was Called. Was I as surprising as they hoped?
Buffy sighed. Now wasn’t the time, but at some point once they’d dealt with the current crisis, there needed to be a group session where everyone sat down and compared stories. She needed to know what had really happened. And so did her sister.
“Dawn, much as it sucks, you need to take some deep breaths. Because if anyone is going to pound on someone from the Old Council, I think I’m first in line. You can go second. Or maybe third, because I know our dad’s going to want in.,.”
Dawn’s lip jutted as rebelliously as if they were back in the living room on Revello Drive.
“What do you expect me to do?” she asked sullenly. “Sit around here under house arrest?”
“No,” Buffy said, shaking her head. “I don’t think you could even if you wanted to. You may not be a Slayer, but you’re enough like me that I wouldn’t ask you to sit still right now. You’re a Summers. Or a Gibbs, or whatever the hell we are, because to be honest, I don’t even know anymore.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Xander spoke up, on firmer ground now that Dawn wasn’t ranting. “The name is just a label. Stick with Summers, go with Gibbs- hell, make up an entirely new name if it works better for you. Whatever you decide.”
Buffy paused for a second, considering.
“That’s true. The name doesn’t matter. What matters is that we know we’re sisters.”
Dawn’s scowl changed to a smirk.
“Yeah, we even have the DNA tests to prove it now. Well, NCIS does, anyway.”
“Exactly,” Buffy grinned. “We’re a package deal. So don’t you go off the deep end on me. I need you, and I need you thinking clearly, because I want you backing me up. I’ve gotten too used to you being my ace in the hole to go without you now.”
Dawn took a deep breath, willing herself calmer. Buffy hadn’t said there wouldn’t be justice. She’d just said now was not the time. And Dawn knew her sister had to be just as furious as she was at whoever had murdered their mother- maybe more, what with the missing memories and all. Real
Tampering with everyone’s memory was a large part of what was setting her off. Dawn knew what it felt like to find out all your memories were fake. She had known that Buffy’s memories of them growing up together were fake, too. But to find out that even the memories underneath those fake, monk-created memories weren’t real… She wanted to tear whoever had done this to her sister limb from limb and beat them with those limbs.
She was also furious because whoever had done this had also done it to Joyce. Joyce’s memories had all been fake. She might not be their real mother, but she had raised them and loved them like her own. Dawn understood intellectually that her biological mother had been dead since before she was created, but Joyce still felt like her mother. And in Dawn’s book, what had been done to her was unforgivable. Whoever had given Buffy to Joyce had known they were dumping a Potential on her, and they hadn’t warned her- one more person who hadn’t been given a choice, and one who had gotten nothing but danger and heartbreak out of it. Was Mom supposed to have a nice, normal life? Was she supposed to have kids of her own? Does she have a family out there someplace still wondering what happened to her, too?
But Buffy was right- she needed to calm down. Dawn took a deep breath, and then another. She’d heard the mini Slayers being stepped through this many times. Breathe in, breathe out. Find your calm. Put the anger someplace and lock it up tight until you need it- until you can use it.
“Ok,” Dawn said, in a quieter, if not completely calm voice. “What’s the plan?”
Buffy exhaled in relief, then frowned.
“We have to hit Quantico tonight. Giving this group breathing space is not something we can do. Even if they didn’t realize your connection to the Council, they must know there’s a major investigation that could come down on them at any time. I don’t know what their plans were, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s not anything we want them putting into action. So Faith, Willow, and I track them down and clean out their nest tonight. Giles will be our on-site Watcher. We should probably see if Riley’s team are willing to play backup, because these guys absolutely cannot get loose- I do not want to be dealing with an undead army headed by vamps trained in strategy and combat tactics.”
“We might already be facing that,” Faith pointed out.
Dawn shook her head.
“They’re still in the recruiting phase,” she said decisively. “If they already had an army, they would be doing more than skulking around a Marine base. And they may have been indiscriminate in their feeding, but they were being choosy about siring. They were only taking the biggest and the best. Whatever they’re planning, they’re not ready to make their move yet. Maybe they’ll rush it if they feel pressured, but I don’t think they’re going to panic because of Navy cops. If they find out the senior Slayers are in town, though…”
“That still leaves the question of where they came from in the first place,” Xander observed. “Are we sure no one’s started up an Initiative 2.0? I mean, I trust Riley’s crew, but that doesn’t mean some other idiot general hasn’t gotten bright ideas. There’s enough money being thrown around in the defense budget not to mention all the off the books stuff that there could easily be another Maggie Walsh out there with steady funding.”
“Doesn’t matter, yo,” Faith put in. “I’m not disagreeing that it’s important to run it down, but we have to deal with what’s on the ground here and now first. Get through this and then worry about the how and the where from.”
“Either way, we should head to Pentagon to coordinate with Riley,” Dawn said. “I’m guessing he’s going to need to clear the way for us in Quantico so we don’t end up with a butt-ton of MPs swarming around underfoot. You don’t want civilians in the mix.”
“Dawnmeister, you better be careful now you’re stationed in DC. Those Marine MPs you’re talking about would strongly object to being called ‘civilians’.”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“For our purposes, they are. Does the Corps cover vampires in Basic? Do they know what to do with a stake? Do they teach the decapitation rule? No? Civilians!”
“Just don’t tell them that,” Xander said, resigned to the inevitable. He had a feeling that at some point in a month or two, Riley or Graham would be calling him to have this talk with Dawn again.
“Anyway,” Dawn said, “I take it I get to be the voice of mission control again?”
Buffy shook her head.
“No, Xander’s on that tonight. Between his soldier memories and what he’s picked up since, I feel like he’ll have an edge when it comes to thinking like these guys and anticipating. I’ve got something else in mind for you. It’s really important, and it’s something I’m pretty sure only you can do. Faith and I will go meet up with Riley and see if his crew wants in on tonight’s fun and games. While we do, Giles, I think you should put in an official appearance at NCIS. I already talked to the President and asked him to give whatever orders need to come from him, so they’ll also get hit with their own chain of command.”
Xander snickered, and the girls rolled their eyes, all aware which quote was dancing in his head.
“Make it clear they need to cease their investigation like yesterday,” Buffy continued, not giving Xander the chance to say it out loud. “Hopefully that will reinforce what’s already coming down from the White House. Dawn’s right, I so do not need to be tripping over civilians tonight.”
Dawn stuck her tongue out at Xander.
“See? Buffy says it too. But Buffy, you can’t send Giles by himself,” Dawn pointed out. “You know how we always thought your tendency to hit things was a Slayer trait? I think you actually get it from dear old dad. If Giles walks in there on his own, he is totally getting punched.”
“Huh?” Buffy replied, confused. “Why would there be punching at NCIS? I get that they’ve probably told Dad by now, but-”
Faith cracked up.
“You missed a detail when you went on your side trip, B,” she said. “Turns out your father is an NCIS agent. We saw him at the hotel when we picked up little D’s stuff.”
The look on Buffy’s face was priceless.
“My dad turned into a cop
?” she asked, sounding utterly and completely appalled.
Even Dawn laughed at the horror in her tone.
“Yeah, Buffy, he’s a Navy cop,” she told her sister. “So you’re going to have to work through that dislike of law enforcement.”
“It’s not just me,” Buffy protested.
“Don’t look at me, I’m already working on my issues,” Faith said, holding up her hands.
“By hitting people,” Willow said tartly.
“You hit our dad?” Dawn spluttered.
“No!” Faith replied indignantly. “Ok, maybe I was going to, but Willow got him with the mojo first. You’re right, he does share facial expressions with big sis.”
“Distraction’s not working, Faith,” Dawn informed her, crossing her arms and glaring at both of them.
“There was no hitting! Red, help me out here!”
“If we could return to the subject at hand,” Giles said, trying to get the younger people in the room to focus.
“I’ll go with the G-Man,” Xander volunteered. “Not that I’m sure that will keep Papa Bear from taking a swing, but I’ll do my best.”
“Me too,” Willow put in. “I’d like to see Buffy’s dad when he’s awake.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow at Faith, who gave her a ‘what did you want us to do?’ shrug.
“Oh, yeah, might also want to return this while you’re there,” Faith said, pulling out the gun she’d confiscated earlier. “I did tell say we’d return it next time we saw her.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose.
“Why do you have a gun?” she asked.
“Took it off your dad’s backup before she ran afoul of rule 37,” Faith smirked. “By the way, you’ll love this- Ziva David works with your father.”
Both Summers sisters looked intrigued at that.
“If he hasn’t killed her, maybe that means Eli’s the odd one out,” Dawn said thoughtfully. “I wonder if she knows what really happened to Ari.”
“Perhaps Dawn should come along,” Giles suggested. “She could meet your father and speak with Miss David.”
Dawn was suddenly all wide-eyed panic, but Buffy looked thoughtful.
“If she thinks she can handle it, that might actually work,” she mused, eying her sister challengingly. “It ties in nicely with what I had in mind for you before I knew our father was one of the Navy cops, and it’s probably a lot more important since he is…”---
Gibbs protested all the way to his house that he was fine. He didn’t need to go home, he needed to get back to the bullpen and hear what McGee and DiNozzo had found out.
Unfortunately, Ziva had obstinately shrugged off all orders to take him anywhere else. When he’d woken up on the hotel room floor, she’d glared at him and asked furiously what he had been thinking, walking in without waiting for backup.
He’d felt guilty when he’d seen what was behind the anger in her eyes- fear. Whatever had happened when he was out had shaken the former Mossad agent. She’d lost her brother. She was barely on speaking terms with her father because of the choices he’d made. And she’d walked in to find him down.You are the closest thing I have to a father…
Never say you’re sorry was a rule, but he had said he shouldn’t have done it. It had been foolish. If they’d wanted to, they could have killed him. And as Ducky had rather acidly pointed out when Ziva had marched Gibbs down to his domain for a medical check, he had been warned about the Council. He was bloody lucky to still be walking and talking.
Despite not being able to find anything actually wrong with him, Ducky had added the force of medical opinion to back up Ziva’s opinion that he should call it a day. Ducky had also had some choice words for him about trying to force a confrontation with Dawn when she clearly was not ready.
“I would get plenty of rest sitting at my desk,” Gibbs growled for the fifth time since being herded into the car.
“Ducky said to take you home,” she shot back, hands locked on the steering wheel.
After a pause, she added, “He was not the only one who said to take you home. It would probably be best if you changed in any case- you look like you have been through all the whores.”She does it on purpose
, Gibbs thought. I swear she does it on purpose.
Usually it was amusing, but at the moment, it was maddening.
“And as I said,” Ziva continued, “Faith Lehane said specifically to take you home.”
“It’s an expression, Ziver,” Gibbs growled irritably.
“How do you know she was not speaking literally?” Ziva demanded. “It could easily be a message. It is not as if she could say clearly that there are things your daughters cannot possibly discuss with you at NCIS.”
He didn’t have any good comeback to that, because he knew there were definitely things his daughters couldn’t discuss with him at NCIS if they were inclined to discuss them with him at all, so he seethed in silence the rest of the way to his house. As he walked up his front steps, his objections abruptly vanished. Ziva hissed in frustration as she reached for a weapon that wasn’t in its holster, but Gibbs waved it off. This wasn’t a threat.
Hanging on the doorknob was a yellow ribbon he recognized all too well. When he grabbed it, something else clattered onto the floorboards of the porch. He picked it up.
A single dogtag. He knew it, because he’d had it made at the base exchange on his way home from Just Cause. It had one name on it- Kelly.
The only way it could have gotten on his doorknob was if someone had dug up Kelly’s time capsule. There were only three people in the world who knew about that- him, Maddie Tyler, and Kelly herself.
Maddie was back in California, happily working at a vet clinic and specializing in horses, just like she’d planned. They kept in touch ever since that incident with the logistics clerk and the stolen cash. She’d written him just a few weeks back to let him know she was engaged. It was a fairly safe bet that she hadn’t been seized by a sudden desire to go dig Kelly’s lunchbox up.
He strode around to the backyard, a confused Ziva trailing in his wake. It didn’t look like anyone had been digging, but when he brushed the mulch aside, he could see where the soil underneath had been disturbed.
“Kelly was here,” he told Ziva.
“How do you know?” she asked, surprised. “Do you think she is still here?”
He shook his head. He couldn’t say how he was sure, but his gut said if she’d wanted to talk to him right now, he’d have found her on the porch, not her dog tag. The only question was what she meant by it. Was it supposed to be a sign of life, or a message that his little girl was gone for good?