Dawn tried not to make any noise as she came to. She knew from unpleasant experience that those few moments when your captor thought you were still out could be the difference between surviving your latest hostage situation or not. In fact, the next time she talked to Xander, they were going to figure out an official rule number for ‘it’s never better when you wake up’. It was item number two on her to do list.
Number one was getting out of this alive. No one could accuse her of not knowing how to prioritize. So much for DC being a quiet assignment…
What she could hear around her wasn’t of the good. She wasn’t the only one on the menu, from the moans coming from her two o’clock. Opening her eyes the merest fraction, she saw there was also a pile of former entrees at eleven. These vamps were not screwing around.
Not that she had thought they were. There had been one that she spotted. The other two had grabbed her before she’d realized they were there. It would have been awesome if her being made from Buffy had meant she got any of the spidey sense that warned her sister about the presence of vampires. Unfortunately, it hadn’t worked out that way- thus her long record of ending up an involuntary guest.
On the bright side, she had lots of experience surviving kidnappings by vampires, demons, and in one memorable case, a deranged witch. That one had been interesting. She would never have expected balloon animals to be a viable weapon…
Sadly, this experience promised to be less fun. She was guessing there was no possibility of balloon animals, and all the vamps she had seen had been huge. Bigger than the average vamp, and something about the way they carried themselves made her suspect that they’d all been military before their deaths. Combat trained vamps was really not of the good.
Especially, Dawn realized, with a sinking feeling, when they were right in your face. She opened her eyes. So much for those extra few moments. Bastard knew she wasn’t unconscious anymore.
He was grinning.
“Enjoying the view, sweetness?”
His expression told her he was. Dawn tried not to make a face as she realized that he’d been looking down her shirt. She bit back frustration when she realized she was, for an unpleasant change, tied up fairly well. Usually her captors botched that part.
“Not really,” she told him in her best bored tone. “You do know this isn’t exactly low profile, right? They’re kind of big on law and order in these parts.”
“Look at me shaking,” the vamp retorted with a snicker. “Hate to break it to you, darling, but no one’s going to miss one little girl.”
Dawn didn’t even try to keep the ‘are you serious’ look off her face.
“Are you kidding me? On a Marine base? I think they just might.”
“You’re not a Marine, honey. Or related to one. And you don’t work here. No one’s going to notice you’re missing.”
Dawn raised an eyebrow even as she smirked inwardly. She begged to differ, but there was no reason to share just yet.
“And you know all that how?”
“I have my ways. Rental tags on your car, for a start.”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, cause no one on base ever has a car in the shop, or totals a car, or doesn’t feel like taking theirs on a long road trip, or-“
“Girlie, you don’t seem to understand your situation,” the vamp growled. “Here, let me give you a little demonstration… It was getting too quiet in here anyway.”
Dawn would normally have congratulated herself on getting under her captor’s skin, but this was not her usual hostage situation. There were bystanders. Her stomach sank as her would-be tormentor moved to her two o’clock. The expression on his face told Dawn whatever was coming would not be pleasant for anyone but him.---
Buffy frowned. She had been restless all day. Everyone else had chalked it up to her being all overprotective big sister, unhappy at having little sis out of her sight after dropping Dawn off at Heathrow this morning. She’d let them run with that, mostly because she wasn’t ready to try to explain the real reason to anyone else yet.
She blamed that dream. She was sure if she lay down and made herself sleep, she’d be right back in her room with the jammed closet again. She was halfway tempted to do it just to see if she could find out anything more. She couldn’t shake the feeling that it was important. Normally she would have talked it through with Dawn, because her sister was uniquely qualified to help her figure out what had been going on there.
Sure, Dawn technically hadn’t grown up with her, but she had all the memories of growing up in the Summers family. She remembered Hank, occasionally with more clarity than Buffy did. Every once in a while, she’d toss out little details that would surprise everyone, like that Hank had actually hated football and only went to the games because clients expected it.
So Dawn might have been able to help her sister work out what was important about the closet, or the basement, or why Hank would suddenly want to see them again after years of not talking. Not showing up to his ex-wife’s funeral had been only the start- Buffy had needed his signature on some documents after her resurrection, part of making formal legal arrangements for Dawn. Just in case. So no one would have to hide her death a second time. They’d been unable to locate Hank. It was like he’d disappeared from the face of the earth.
That had been years ago, and they hadn’t heard a single word since. Buffy occasionally wondered what she’d done to make her father walk away from her like she was nothing, usually on her bad days. She knew the answer, of course. Joyce had eventually come around to accepting her daughter’s Calling, but Hank had never believed it in the first place. It was so much simpler for him to believe his daughter was just crazy. And crazy didn’t fit in his neat little world any more than Slayer did. Once she hit eighteen and was legally no longer his responsibility, he was gone for good.
It had been over ten years ago. Definitely long enough for her to get over it. She was a big girl now, after all. An adult. Role model, even. And if she was honest, the way the youngest girls looked at her scared her more than demons most days. The weight of their expectations was heavier than the weight of the world- especially because she refused to let them down. She wanted to show them that being a Slayer wasn’t a fast ticket to an early death. She was the longest lived Slayer on record, though Willow had pointed out the record had a few suspicious gaps that might have been Slayers who evaded the Council and lived a somewhat normal life.
She wondered if a normal life was even possible for people like them. She was pretty sure it wasn’t for her, Willow, and Xander. Too long in the trenches. Giles didn’t seem to mind, but then he’d had a normal life up until Sunnydale. Dawn barely even recalled what normal life was in her fake memories, although a Xander-shaped bird had told her that her baby sister might be trying for a normal relationship with a completely non-magical human male- albeit one who still had ties to the supernatural. In fact, that might have been a factor in her willingness to take on the DC assignment.
Buffy sighed. Even for Slayers, evading sleep forever wasn’t possible. They even had a rule about it, mostly to remind the newly called minis that no matter how invincible they felt, they weren't. Of course, rule 28 also got invoked to remind the older Slayers that running themselves ragged chasing the baddie of the moment would eventually catch up with them. Sooner or later she was going to have to face that closet door again...
Maybe this time she could get it to open.---
Gibbs looked around his house. In the wake of recent events, he’d ended up revisiting the past. That vision, or whatever it was, at the diner had showed him a lot of things. All the losses- his mother, his girls, Kate- but also all the gains- Abby, Ducky, Tony, Tim, Ziva and all that she’d done for him. Not just with Ari, but after that bomb had sent him back in time and he’d woken up to his loss all over again. After all that, he was looking at his life with new eyes.
Damn psychologist kid from that case last Christmas had been right. Shannon would never have let their home look like this. Without even realizing it, he’d let it get shabby. Threadworn. And that was on top of it definitely lacking a woman’s touch- or the touch of anyone who knew more about interior decorating than the average jarhead. It managed to look both unlived in and tired.
More than one of his ex-wives (and several of his ex-girlfriends) had complained that he wasn’t able to let go of the past. At the time he’d been unwilling to hear it, but they might have had a point. He’d kept the house just as it was. But as it was had been decades now. Even if that miracle he used to dream about happened and Kelly and Shannon walked back in the door today, they wouldn’t be happy with the results.
Maybe it was time to make some changes.
He gazed at their picture as he cracked open a beer. Kelly would probably be more horrified than Shannon, now that he thought about it. Shannon would just sigh and reach for the nearest furniture catalogue while telling him this was not negotiable. He’d act gruff while she planned the shopping trip, but secretly he’d love every minute of it. Hell, he’d even take Shannon shoe shopping if it meant spending time with his girls.
Kelly, though... She’d always liked things pretty. His princess would wrinkle her nose and ask what he was thinking keeping the couch. And that would be before she sat on it. He could almost see it.
‘Daddy, seriously? It’s like something from a museum!’
Maybe it was time to let go. Maybe this time, letting go would work. Besides, who was he kidding? If miracles happened, if Kelly somehow walked through the door today, he probably wouldn’t recognize her. She’d be a grown woman, not the girl he’d hugged goodbye. She might even be thinking about having kids of her own. But whenever he thought of her, he still pictured his little girl.
That was the one part he hadn’t mentioned to anyone after the shooting at the diner, not that he’d gone into a lot of detail about his moment of clarity about his life to anyone else. At the end, just after he’d made the decision that Steven wasn’t a lost cause, he’d heard not one voice, but two.
One was Mike Franks.
“Guess you weren’t done yet, probie!”
The other was one he wished like hell every day he could hear again.
“I knew you would. I’ll see you soon, Daddy!”
His phone rang, startling him out of his reverie. The number that flashed on the phone showed that it was work. He sighed and put down the beer. Figured he’d only get one sip.
He listened to quick rundown of location and pertinent details. Quantico. Multiple dead bodies, at least one a Marine. Only bright spot was that there was a live witness. Not that it was much of a bright spot. Whenever it was phrased it like the on duty agent was saying it, it meant the witness had only narrowly missed being part of the body count. Even if she wasn’t hospital bound, it was a fair bet she was traumatized.
“I’m on my way.”