All Is Well, Safely Rest
Buffy didn’t see what anyone complained about. Ziva’s driving was downright soothing. The only awkward part was not having any good ideas on how to break the ice. Somehow Dawn’s burning question about what really happened to Ari didn’t seem like the best place to start. She knew she wouldn’t appreciate it if someone asked her out of the blue what had happened to Anya or Tara.
Glancing sideways at the woman, she caught Ziva doing the same thing.
“I suppose I could begin,” Ziva said. “Since I am the one violating orders by seeking you out. You are aware of who my father is, just as I am aware of who yours is. You are no doubt wondering what our relationship is.”
Buffy blinked. Not really what she’d been thinking about, but what the hey.
“Among other things,” she said. “If it makes this less awkward, I’m with Dawn- Dad hasn’t killed you, so you must be ok.”
Ziva paused for a moment.
“I suppose that is a fair assessment if she has dealt with my father.”
“No, that joy was mine,” Buffy muttered, trying not to let too much of her uncomplimentary feelings toward the Mossad director bleed into her tone. She was pretty sure you needed both a mind and a mouth like Spike’s to do Eli David full justice. “Sorry, that wasn’t very nice of me. For all I know, you’re daddy’s girl, too.”
Buffy knew she’d stepped into an emotional minefield the second the words left her mouth. Ziva visibly tensed.
“Never apologize,” she said shortly. “It is a sign of weakness.”
Buffy’s eyebrows went up. The restrained anger didn’t seem to be directed at her, and the words had a rote quality to them- along with an undertone that said they were more than just a statement, they were a declaration of loyalty. She wasn’t entirely sure to who, though.
“That’s one philosophy,” Buffy said slowly. “But we’re fans of ‘it will not kill you to say sorry’. Believe me, I would know.”
“You apologize frequently?” Ziva asked, still tense but winding down.
“Yep,” Buffy replied, regretting she didn’t know Ziva better, because she would have loved to add died on occasion too
. “Hasn’t killed me yet.”
“It is one of Gibbs’ rules,” Ziva said, sounding thoroughly discombobulated. “Did he not teach them to you?”
Buffy shrugged. She didn't remember anything about rules, at least not that kind of rules, but that didn't mean much given how much she hadn't remembered for years.
“Could be he tried. I had a pretty wicked case of amnesia until recently. Course, even if he tried, there’s no guarantee it took. I’m not that great with rules.”
“That I believe.”
“Hey, it’s not like you’re the poster girl for rule following right now, either!” Buffy pointed out.
“It is better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission is another of your father’s rules,” Ziva said smugly. “Rule 18. And I thought it would be preferable to seek the director’s forgiveness for misinterpreting orders than to seek Gibbs’ forgiveness if something had gone wrong with your operation tonight.”
To Ziva’s surprise, Buffy laughed.
“Misinterpreting. I’m going to remember that one. Out of curiosity, what were you going to do if things had gone wrong? I had a squad of specially trained Marines on standby. If things went so bad that they were all wiped out, what was your plan?”
Ziva didn’t even think about it.
“Guess it’s a good thing things went right, cause somehow I don’t think that would have worked very well.”
“He came for me when I needed saving,” Ziva said quietly.
When Buffy didn’t respond, Ziva chanced a look at her passenger. Buffy was regarding her thoughtfully. She suddenly realized her comment could easily be taken in a way she had not intended.
“I did not mean to imply-“ Ziva began.
“Huh? No, it’s ok. Faith and Willow told me about earlier, you know. I’m glad my dad found a family to gather around him.”
“You are not angry?” Ziva asked.
Buffy shook her head.
“What, that my father wasn’t living like a hermit or a crazy person the whole time I didn’t remember him? If anything, I’m relieved he had people he cared about. It would be worse to think he was alone that whole time. God knows there was enough damage done as it is.”
“But?” Ziva prompted, deciding to leave Buffy’s last statement alone for the time being. Based on what Dawn had said in the bullpen earlier, she suspected the damage done was extensive.
“But that need to save me would probably have gotten him killed quick if you’d called him tonight,” Buffy said sadly.
“That’s why I aimed Dawn at him.”
“Also, she is more vulnerable,” Ziva said thoughtfully. “Thus protecting two birds with one stone.”
“From a certain perspective, maybe. She’s got mommy issues, daddy issues… actually, after the horrorfest that was our last couple years in Sunnyhell, her issues probably have family issues. But she does know how to survive a vampire attack. Don’t think for one second Dawn can’t protect herself. She wouldn’t still be walking and talking otherwise. She could have probably taken care of Dad in a situation if it came to that.”
“Your father would see her as more vulnerable.”
“I don’t know about more vulnerable,” Buffy said thoughtfully. “But she’s younger-“
“And unexpected,” Ziva finished.
Buffy was experienced enough after all these years that her face betrayed nothing at Ziva’s confirmation that their father hadn’t known about Dawn. Sure, they’d suspected as much, but knowing for certain was different. On the bright side, Dawn had evidently been happy enough to stay at their father’s house overnight- and he must have been content to let her.
“There’s no way my dad would have left her alone tonight,” she said firmly. “You saw what happened Tuesday night, right?”
“Dawn was lucky to escape with only superficial injuries. There were multiple homicide victims in the building when we arrived. Most of them had been extensively brutalized.”
“Yeah, vampires are charming that way,” Buffy agreed. “But main point, dad saw. The only way he would have left her tonight was if he had half of NCIS guarding her.”
Ziva thought about that for a moment, then admitted that the logic was sound. No matter how frantic he might have been about his older daughter, Gibbs would have been unlikely to trust Dawn’s safety to anyone else. In fact, there were only two people other than herself she could think of he might have called on to do so- unfortunately, one was dead, and Gibbs could hardly have confided in the director under the circumstances.
She glanced over at Buffy again to find the blonde regarding her with a knowing look.
“See? I might still be hazy on some things from my past, but I do know the important stuff. Hey, I think I know where we are now. You need to turn here.”---
Ziva was a little unsure what to make of her current surroundings. Ducky had made the Council sound forbidding. Secretive. Abusive. But the house Buffy had brought her to, saying she wanted to take a shower so she didn’t go to meet her dad covered in vamp dust, was none of those things. It was warm. Welcoming. A real home.
She looked around the cozy living room, taking in the comfortable furnishings as well as the numerous small, human touches that showed that despite the house being still not entirely unpacked- there were boxes stacked all around- people with personality lived here. It was nothing like what she had expected.
She did not jump when she registered the other presence in the room- Buffy was not the only person in residence, after all- but she was on guard. Buffy had not expected any of her companions to be back yet. On the plus side, she could be sure it was not a vampire. Buffy had been quite clear that they needed invitations to enter a house. Ziva already planned to be much more careful in her behavior at her own door.
She turned to find Xander Harris behind her, hands half raised to show lack of threat.
“Sorry, I didn’t expect to startle you. Figured since you’re ex-Mossad, not to mention Eli’s kid, you’d have ninja skills that would detect you and the Buffster weren’t the only ones in the house.”
“You have also met my father?” Ziva asked.
“Thankfully, no. Buffy and Faith have. They… weren’t very complimentary.”
Ziva could imagine they hadn’t been.
“So, waiting for Buffy to clean up. Can I get you anything? She tends to take her time in the shower.”
“Do you by any chance have hot chocolate?” Ziva asked.
“This is a house intended for Slayers. Of course we have hot chocolate. C’mon.”
Ziva followed him into the cheerful kitchen. If anything, it was more comfortable than the living room. Xander read her expression easily as she absorbed the already well-stocked pantry and commercial size fridge whose homey color didn’t disguise that it wasn’t your standard residential appliance. He headed straight for a cabinet above the coffee maker and pulled out two hot chocolate sachets.
“This isn’t the first house we’ve set up. Not only do Slayers eat more than your average teen, experience says the girls spend a lot of time in the kitchens if they’re not training, studying, or watching movies. So we feel it’s worth it to go the extra mile and make it a nice place to hang in addition to keeping enough food on hand to feed an army on short notice.”
Ziva nodded, continuing to study the room.
“Will Buffy be living here?” she asked, keeping her voice casual.
Xander shrugged, sliding two mugs of hot chocolate onto the breakfast bar.
“I don’t know. That wasn’t the plan originally, but I can’t see Buffy not wanting to spend more time in DC now. Problem is, she’s pretty vital to running the Council these days, so it gets complicated.”
Ziva nodded as she picked up her mug. She had already gathered that Buffy must be placed fairly high in the organization- why else would the Council have moved so quickly to shut down the investigation? Intervention by the President was not something that happened for foot soldiers.
“Dawn’s definitely here either way though,” Xander continued. “She was already psyched about this posting as it was, and now that she’s met her dad, I have a feeling all the crowbars in the world couldn’t pry her out of here.”
Ziva was wandering around the kitchen as they talked, looking at the various knick-knacks that had already found homes, as well as the strategically placed items that could be used as weapons. She paused when she reached the refrigerator and read the paper held in place by a singularly ridiculous magnet.
“Rules?” she asked pointedly.
Xander grinned. It took several years off his face, making him look almost boyish, instead of older than the age she knew him to be.
“Yeah, since Dawn’s going to be based here for the foreseeable future, she brought the original master copy of the Official Scooby Rules.”
Ziva read avidly. Xander watched her reaction in amusement.
“It will be quite interesting when Gibbs and his daughters compare rules,” she said. “They are mutually exclusive in places. Rule 6, for example. And I believe Gibbs may have uncomfortable questions about 12 and 14.”
“Oh, yeah, maybe we should put that somewhere a little less prominent before Agent Gibbs gets the house tour,” Xander said, flushing. “At least until he’s had some time to process and gets the redacted version of Buffy’s teenage years.”
“Rule 12 dates from her teenage years?” Ziva spluttered.
“Well, the rule is retrospective, but the first violation was when she was sixteen,” Xander admitted. “I will, of course, deny all knowledge if you are foolish enough to relay this conversation to her father.”
Ziva gave him a look that suggested his sanity was in question.
“You think I am about to tell him that his long lost daughter is namechecked in a rule about not having sex with vampires?”
“Hey, you Mossad types clearly have a different definition of normal behavior than the rest of us. Just cause it sounded crazy to me
Ziva shook her head.
“Right,” Xander said. “So I’ll hide the rules, you’ll forget to mention it to anyone else, and we’ll both live long, happy lives. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I still hear the shower, so Buffy's going to be a while. Ice cream?”
“What do you have?” Ziva asked.
Xander’s smile turned smug.
“The question to ask in this house is what don’t we have?”---
Buffy found it difficult to sit still on the ride from the Council house to her dad’s, mainly because she’d taken too long in the shower. Too much time for the thinky thoughts. But the hot water had felt so nice, and Giles wasn’t the only one discovering that field work sucked more, not less, as time went by. In her case, Slayer healing and resilience took a lot of the edge off, but injuries still hurt no matter what.
When they reached the house, Buffy looked at it and realized her sister and father must be in bed already- it was completely dark.
“Crap. I’m such a smarty pants I didn’t think that people might be sleeping,” she said ruefully. “Guess the happy reunion will have to wait until morning. Do you mind dropping me back at the house?”
“You could still stay here,” Ziva said. “Surprise your father in the morning.”
“Ok, we both know I can get into that house if I really want to, but I don’t think showcasing my breaking and entering skills is a good way to reestablish a relationship with my dad. Especially now that he’s a cop.”
Ziva laughed, and couldn’t stop laughing at the irritation on Buffy’s face because she wasn’t in on the joke.
“Sorry,” she said, settling herself. “But I must tell you the same thing Abby told Dawn earlier. Gibbs never locks his door.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. Ok, that was new. She was pretty sure her mother had been big on making sure the door was safely locked at night. But it did explain Ziva’s unexpected case of the giggles.
“Well in that case…”
She hopped out of the car, reaching into the backseat to grab the bag she’d thrown together after the shower.
“Thanks for the ride, Ziva. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of each other from now on.”
“I think I would enjoy that,” Ziva replied with a small smile, back to her normal reserve. She waved, and then put the car in gear, leaving Buffy no time for second thoughts.
Buffy walked confidently up the front steps. Somehow, it felt good knowing that she could return home by the front door instead of sneaking in. She was a grown woman, her father already knew about vampires, and she didn’t have to hide anything.
She also didn’t have to be loud. Just because she never got a decent night’s sleep didn’t mean other people shouldn’t. She slipped inside quietly, closing the door silently behind her. She was surprised to find it was pretty much like she remembered it, just slightly dustier and a little more worn. Evidently her dad hadn’t been big on keeping up with trends in interior decorating.
She came to a stop when she saw the photo. Front and center, where you couldn’t help but see them whenever you walked through the door. Faith was right. He hadn’t moved on. There she was, eight years old and cuddled in her mother’s arms, young enough that it had still meant shelter and total safety.
“Mom, I’m home,” she whispered.---
Gibbs wasn’t sure what had woken him up, because it had to be two or three in the morning. The house was completely quiet, but something wasn’t right. He slipped out into the hall. Listening, he heard Dawn’s quiet, steady breathing coming from Kelly’s room. She was still asleep, so whatever he’d heard wasn’t her. He glanced down the stairs to the front door.
He hadn’t locked it. Hadn’t for years. There was no point. The most precious things in his life had already been taken, and there was no getting them back. Now he could kick himself for overlooking what was a normal part of other people’s nightly routine- his house was worth locking again.
He padded silently down the steps, unsure what he would find, only to come to a shocked halt in the doorway to the living room.
The moonlight streaming through the front window turned the figure in front of the bookshelves an eerie white. As still as she was standing, he could almost believe she was a ghost- except that this was a grownup ghost, not the little girl he’d missed for twenty years.
He started to take a step towards her, but as quietly as he moved, she still turned at the sound. She was holding the photo of her and her mother that he kept on the shelf, and looked like she was about to cry. There was a bag on the floor by her feet- she must have dropped it when she reached for the photo.
“Kelly,” he whispered. His mouth had gone completely dry. He’d hoped to see her, but now that she was here, he had no idea what to do.
“Hi, Daddy,” she replied.
For all she called him Daddy, he had the impression that she was about two inches from bolting.
“What are you doing, baby?” he asked.
“I came to check on Dawn,” she said, sounding nervous.
He might have been hurt, except that he remembered this. God, he remembered this. When she was nervous or upset, Kelly would talk about anything but whatever was bothering her. You had to wait it out until she was ready to open up. Shannon had claimed more than once, usually in total exasperation, that she got it from him.
“She’s asleep upstairs,” Gibbs said hoarsely. “I put her in your room. Didn’t think you’d mind.”
She shook her head, with a small smile.
“Sleeping like a baby,” he replied. “Kelly-”
“Daddy, I’m sorry,” she said, and her face crumpled.
Even though they were on opposite sides of the room, he had his arms around her in no time flat. He didn’t even consciously register crossing the room.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he told her, hugging her tightly. “None of this is your fault.”
“It is,” she insisted. “It’s all because-“
“Because some stupid old men decided that the only way they could get little girls to fight vampires was to take them away from their families,” he cut her off. “I know, baby. That’s not your fault either.”
“You aren’t angry at me?” she asked shakily. “They killed Mommy to get to me.”
“They only got away with that because your mother didn’t know they were coming,” Gibbs said firmly. There was no doubt in his mind Shannon would have ripped a man limb from limb before she’d let anyone take her daughter away. Never underestimate a mama bear when her cub’s in danger.
Maybe that ought to be a rule, too.
He sat them down on the couch. He wanted her to understand once and for all that this was not on her. From the sound of it, his girls had enough to carry without her carrying the weight of what the Council had done to them on top of it.
“It is not your fault. This Council did this, not you. I may not understand why you’re still working with them, but I’m happy you came home.”
She gave him a shaky smile, which even though it was unsure was still close enough to his mother’s to break his heart all over again that he’d been missing it for so many years.
“Were you staying the night, or did you have other plans?” he asked cautiously, glancing at the bag still sitting forlornly on the floor. He hoped the answer would be ‘stay’. His baby girl was finally home, back where she belonged. He wasn’t sure he could let her walk back out the door. Not tonight.
“I wasn’t entirely sure. I mean, I was hoping I could stay. I needed to check on Dawn. And I wanted to see you, to explain…”
She trailed off, waving her hand vaguely, as if there were any reasonable way to explain the crazy situation they found themselves in.
“So this has nothing at all to do with a certain pig,” he said slyly, and almost laughed at the utter outrage on his daughter’s face. Some things hadn’t changed, no matter what his little girl called herself these days.
“Dad-dy! No, it’s not about Mr. Gordo!”
She paused as he raised an eyebrow.
“Not just about Mr. Gordo,” she sulkily amended.
“Good to know you’re still honest,” he said, grinning. Seeing her open her mouth to protest, he shook his head. “Whatever it is, princess, it can wait until morning. I gave Dawn your bed, but you can have mine.”
She shook her head.
“No, you go back to bed. You need the rest. I heard about your afternoon from Faith and Willow, and that was before I put you on Dawn Patrol. The couch is fine. It’s more comfortable than a lot of places I’ve slept.”
Gibbs tried not to dwell on that. He would never have wanted his baby to join the Corps, and here she was, fighting something a lot worse than anything jarheads ever dealt with.
“If that’s what you want to do,” he said lightly.
Before he left the room, he noticed his daughter was looking at the piece of furniture she was sitting on. Yep, there it was. Her nose wrinkled up just as he’d imagined it would. He just might have to pinch himself a couple times when he got upstairs to be sure this was real.
“Is this the same couch?” she demanded. “Furniture shopping, dad. Tomorrow! Take the day off!”
“I’ll go get you a pillow and a blanket,” Gibbs said, trying not to laugh.
“That would be nice.” She paused, and then said in a rush, “You’re not mad about the name, are you? Cause I’m kind of used to being Buffy now.”
Gibbs sighed. Deep down, he was a little irritated by it, but at the same time…
“I don’t know why you girls are so hung up on that. You’re back from the dead, and you think I’m going to make a fuss because you got used to a different name?”
The smile that she rewarded him with was full blown, lighting up her entire face.
As he headed up the stairs to grab bedding for her, Gibbs marveled at what a difference a day made. This morning, he hadn’t known if he’d ever get a chance to talk to either of his daughters. Tonight, they were both sleeping under his roof. There were still a few things he wanted to get to the bottom of, but he had a feeling he was going to sleep better tonight than he had in years.