The Girl Without A Past
Tony tried not to glare at Major Miller, who had a hand on Dawn Summers’ back, and was murmuring something in her ear, no doubt something encouraging about how all she had to do was tell the investigators what she had seen last night and everything would be just fine.
Summers, for her part, looked far more put together than she had last night. She was dressed like a young professional, and looked far more poised and confident, albeit slightly tired. There was also a look in her eyes that Tony had seen before- always on girls who had seen too much. God, he hoped they’d find the bastard who had put that look there. He was looking forward to seeing Gibbs take him down.
“Miss Summers, Major Miller. Thank you for coming in. This way, please.”
He noticed that Miller gestured for Dawn to go in front of him, putting her in the most protected spot- not that there should be any trouble in NCIS. He showed Dawn to the conference room, and informed her that McGee would be with her momentarily for her interview. Then he led Miller down the corridor to where they’d be talking.
It clearly didn’t escape Miller’s notice that he wasn’t in the polite interview room. It was an interrogation room.
“Do I need a lawyer, sir?” were Miller’s first words when he got a look at the room.
“I don’t know, do you?” DiNozzo replied. “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t need one, right?”
“I’m not some dumb kid, Agent DiNozzo, so cut the act.”
Tony held up his hands.
“Not acting. I just have a few questions for you. Actually, make that one question. What really happened last night?”
He waited, but as he’d halfway expected, Miller said nothing. He didn’t even blink, although for a split second, Tony thought he saw the ghost of a smirk.
“We’re not dumb either, Major. You’re the one who’s in the top secret special ops unit. Your service record has a serious case of classified blackout, but it does admit that you’ve been in Sunnydale- the town Dawn Summers is from, the same town that fell into a huge sinkhole about nine years back. Nice looking girl, by the way. I can see why you’re attracted to her. And clearly this isn’t the first time you two have met, because those were her jeans you brought her last night. Brand new jeans don’t hug a girl’s ass as nicely as ones that have been worn in a bit.”
Miller’s jaw tensed ever so slightly, but he said nothing.
“Here’s the thing, Graham- can I call you Graham? You showed up at that warehouse last night almost before we did-and you claim you stopped to pick up clothes for your girlfriend. To get there that quick, you would have to have known about what was going on as fast as we did. Maybe even faster. Base MPs reported dead Marines to us only minutes after acting on an anonymous 911 call. So you can see where we still have some questions about what actually happened last night.”
Miller looked right at him, and Tony realized with a sinking feeling that he wasn’t going to get a damn thing out of the guy.
“I’d like to speak with my CO, sir. I need a JAG lawyer with the proper clearance before I can say anything else.”
Tony frowned at him.
“You might want to make yourself comfortable, then, Major. That could take a while.”---
Timothy McGee smiled as he sat down across from Dawn Summers. He’d halfway expected Gibbs to want to handle this himself, but apparently he wanted to just observe for now- or possibly alternate between observing this interview and the one Tony was conducting with Miller.
The only sign Summers wasn’t completely at ease was that she was toying with her necklace, an intricately worked Celtic cross.
“That’s beautiful,” he remarked as he set down the folders he’d brought with him.
“Thanks,” she said softly.
“Where did you get it?” he asked, looking to build even a slight rapport before starting in on the questions.
“Gift from a friend,” Dawn replied. “I’ve had it since I was twelve.”
“So that would be a little after you moved to Sunnydale, right?” McGee asked. She’d given him the opening, so he decided to go with her background instead of starting with the discrepancies in her account of what had happened last night.
“Yeah, I guess about ten months after we moved there, maybe a little bit longer,” Dawn replied.
“And that friend wasn’t Major Miller.”
“Graham? No. I didn’t really know him when we lived in Sunnydale, and definitely not when we first moved there. I only saw him in passing a couple times back then. My sister knew him, they were at UC Sunnydale at the same time, although I guess it was more a cover story in his case. Either way, I didn’t meet him until later.”
“You say it was a cover story. So you’re aware that Major Miller is involved in a covert unit.”
“Agent McGee, you’re triggering my sarcasm reflex, and I have to warn you, it’s pretty hard to suppress. Yes, I’m aware. Known about that since Sunnydale, too.”
McGee frowned. That answer was unexpected.
“I thought Major Miller’s unit was undercover. Their existence is highly classified.”
“There were weird circumstances. Actually, I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it with you. I’m pretty sure I signed papers back in the day about not talking about it to anyone who isn’t supposed to know.”
Keeping a straight face for that was difficult, since Dawn couldn’t help remembering how unamused Riley had been when he discovered her thirteen year old self had been eavesdropping on conversations between Buffy and Giles (among others) and knew all about the Initiative.
“Actually, Miss Summers, the Major Case Response team are all cleared to handle classified material.”
Dawn shook her head.
“Sorry, I don’t actually know how classified works- it’s not something I deal with except for this one thing. So unless Riley tells me it’s ok to talk to you about it, I’d rather not. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble. Or cause paperwork for Riley. He’s told me several times about how much paperwork he would have to do if I mess up. Something about killing an entire forest.”
McGee frowned, and shuffled his own papers.
“Right, well, I’ll clarify that situation with my boss and we’ll come back to it if it’s really necessary. Dawn, can you tell me where you lived before you moved to Sunnydale?”
“Before Sunnydale? L.A.”
“Tell me about L.A.,” McGee said.
Dawn looked slightly confused at the turn the conversation had taken.
“I don’t really remember that much about it outside our immediate neighborhood. It’s not like I was old enough to really be out and about on my own- we moved when I was eleven.”
“Right, that would be when your parents split up, and you moved with your mother and sister to Sunnydale. What about your father?”
“Hank?” Dawn snorted. “We had occasional visits for a couple years after the divorce, like every six months or so when he remembered and wasn’t too busy with work or girlfriends or whatever else he had going in his life. But that pretty much stopped by the time I hit high school. We’re not in contact anymore.”
Now it was Dawn’s turn to frown.
“Why all the questions about my childhood, Agent McGee? I thought I was here to talk about the attack on the Marine last night.”
“We’ll get to that, but first there’s something I have to clear up. When NCIS investigate a crime, it’s routine to check into the background of witnesses and victims. But when we tried to draw up a background for you, we got basically nothing. The only records we have for you are your driver’s license and passport.”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“The collapse of Sunnydale is the gift that just keeps on giving,” she told him with a sigh. “We lost everything. Photos, birth certificates, the whole shebang. That’s why I was so upset about my locket. My sister, myself, and several of our friends were in the last group out, and we walked away with nothing but the clothes on our backs. Actually, as close as we cut it, some of us were lucky to still be able to walk. The only thing I had besides what I was wearing was my school ID.”
Dawn didn’t mention that the only reason she’d bothered carrying it that day was in case things didn’t work out and someone other than her sister or Willow needed to identify her body.
McGee leaned toward her.
“It’s a little more serious than that, Dawn,” he told her gently. “Even if your copy of your birth certificate was destroyed, the state of California should still have one on record for you. The problem is, they don’t.”
Confusion was plain on Dawn’s face.
“But… they must. They have to. How can they not? I’ve seen my birth certificate. I was born at White Memorial Medical Center, same as Buffy.”
“I don’t know, Dawn, but it’s not on record anywhere. How did you get your driver’s license without having to show your birth certificate or permit?”
Dawn was trying not to wring her hands.
“There was a special arrangement for Sunnydale disaster victims. Lots of people lost all sorts of important papers in the scramble to get out. At the disaster response center, there was a government services kiosk that was set up to process people for new identity documents, even if they’d lost all their previous documentation. You had to have witnesses who could attest to you being who you said you were, and they had to be able to find references to you being a Sunnydale resident. My sister owned our house on Revello Drive, and the principal of Sunnydale High and my homeroom teacher were our witnesses since they knew both of us. I did my road test and got my license, and we both filled out our passport applications.”
Dawn also omitted the fact that the hastily reconstituted remnants of the Council had made certain there would be no delay in new documentation for any Council personnel or dependents, which is what she’d officially been at that point. Really, once they’d regrouped in LA, it had been clear what all of them needed most were passports. They’d relocated to England to organize the new Council at the end of the summer.
Dawn shook her head.
“Seriously, how can California not have my birth certificate?”
“Actually, they don’t have your sister’s, either,” McGee told her. “And we can’t find school enrollment for you prior to Sunnydale, or your sister prior to her year at Hemery. Is it possible your mother reverted to her maiden name when your parents got divorced- maybe unofficially? If she started listing you as Summers when your father’s name was something else, that would explain the problem we’ve been having.”
Dawn looked at McGee in bewilderment.
“No. Our dad’s name is definitely Summers, same as ours. I wasn’t that young when the divorce went through that I wouldn’t know my name. I don’t believe this. How did no one notice before that there were no birth certificates on record for us?”
“We’re as in the dark as you are, Dawn. I was hoping you’d be able to clear it up. But you’re sure you were born at White Memorial?”
“That’s what it said on the one in Mom’s desk,” Dawn replied. “Buffy was born there, too. Do you want me to call her? She probably knows more, she was already in high school when we moved.”
“That’s ok. You just sit tight for now, I’m going to go check with the hospital records and see if we can clear this up. Maybe your birth certificates were filed incorrectly. Typos and other paperwork mistakes do happen. This might just all be a big mixup.”---
Down in the bullpen, where they’d been observing both interviews over camera feeds, Gibbs turned to Ziva.
“She is genuinely surprised and distressed by the news that her documentation is not there,” Ziva said, looking puzzled. “She was not aware of it. It would be highly unusual for an agent to not be aware of their backstopping. If I were an agent in her position, I would have verified it myself before the start of the mission.”
Unspoken was that Ziva would never have accepted such a shoddy background. She’d already been clear earlier on how dangerous such a dubious history would be for an agent.
“But you also don’t think it was a paperwork mixup,” Gibbs said.
“No,” Ziva said firmly. “Even if one girl’s birth record was misfiled, both of them? As well as their mother’s missing documents? And the mysterious father we can find no trace of? That is too many coincidences.”
Seeing Gibbs’ face, she frowned.
“You don’t believe it was a paperwork mixup either.”
Gibbs shook his head.
“I don’t know what it was,” he replied. “But I’ll be surprised if McGee finds anything to support her belief that she and her sister were born at White Memorial. Besides, you know rule 39.”
“There is no such thing as a coincidence,” Ziva recited with a nod.
He continued to gaze at Dawn Summers, as though he could work out just what had happened from her worried face. She was doing something on her phone, but the camera angle wasn’t right for them to see what.
Gibbs’ phone rang. He ignored it. Ziva’s rang next.
“Yes. Yes, he is here. Yes, I will tell him.”
She hung the phone up.
“That was Abby. She says you need to come down to the lab right now.”---
Left alone in the interview room, Dawn pulled out her phone. She was surprised to see it wasn’t jammed. She would have expected NCIS to block outsiders’ cell phones within their facility.
Seeing as it wasn’t, she tapped out a quick text.NCIS says I have no birth certificate- and Buffy doesn’t either. What’s going on??
She checked off the ‘Buffy’, ‘Giles’, ‘Willow’, ‘Xander’, ‘Faith’, and ‘Riley’ boxes, and hit send. Hopefully that would give everyone who might need to know a heads up.
Her not having a birth certificate made sense in a way. The monks had been able to create memories and work her into the reality of Sunnydale, but they hadn’t bothered with the wider world. Hell, she was pretty sure Hank Summers, wherever he was, had no idea he had a second daughter. From what they could figure out post-Sunnydale, she was only supposed to have been a temporary solution. But Buffy dying in her place had thrown quite the kink into that plan.
They’d never realized before that the copy of her birth certificate in Joyce Summers’ papers was the only one, and thanks to the Sunnydale Disaster Response Commission, she’d gotten her license and passport without needing to show it. Without this incident, she might have gone her entire life without finding out.
But Buffy not having a birth certificate was weird. Up until she’d been Called, Buffy had been a normal girl. She should have had a birth certificate, and elementary school enrollment records, and all the other stuff Agent McGee was saying wasn’t there.
Something strange was going on. She just hoped it wasn’t the beginning of something big.---
Buffy had found it difficult to drop off to sleep, especially since it was still early in the day even for a nap, but years of mental discipline had taught her how to empty her mind and grab sleep when it was necessary. She’d eventually managed to nod off.
This time, to her surprise, she started outside the house. For the first time, she could see clearly that this wasn’t Revello Drive. It was similar, but not the Summers home. The yard was different, and so was the color. Also, it didn’t feel like southern California. She’d spent enough of her life there to know.
The front door wasn’t locked, so she went inside.
Her room was upstairs, exactly where it should have been, but there was no room for Dawn. Where Dawn’s room should have been was a room that looked like it did double duty as a spare room and somebody’s project room. The projects weren’t anything she’d ever seen her mother working on, though.
The house didn’t flicker this time, either. Now that Willow had broken the old spell, the house seemed to know what it was supposed to look like- or maybe it was that she knew what it was supposed to look like.
She stopped short when she walked into her room. The closet door was open- in fact, it looked like it had almost exploded outward. Looking at the avalanche of stuff that had come spilling out, covering most of the floor, Buffy found it hard to believe that it had all fit in there, much less that it had been so difficult to open with so much pressing on the door from the inside.
She stopped to pick up the closest thing to the door, and found a photo of a little girl she suddenly recognized.
“Maddie,” she whispered, surprised to have a name to put with the face. Until today, she wouldn’t have known her. Now she did, but it was like she was remembering something from somebody else’s life. This girl had been her best friend until she moved.
“Finally,” her mother said, coming up behind her. “You need to have everything squared away before you see your father. You’re not ready yet.”
“Mom, I don’t understand,” Buffy said, turning to look the woman full in the face- and abruptly getting dizzy.
She had two sets of memories at war with each other in her head- one set telling her this woman was her mother, and another that was shrieking protest at the insult to Joyce. She closed her eyes, fighting the urge to puke.
Her mother eased her on to the bed, making soothing sounds.
“It’ll pass soon, baby. Just breathe, it will pass.”
Buffy waited until the feeling of nausea and her fighting her own self had eased before she opened her eyes cautiously and tried to speak again.
“Your name is Shannon. Dad called you that in the first dream I had.”
Her mother’s face had brightened, but fell slightly as she understood that Buffy had only remembered that from her dream, not from her actual memories.
“He called for Kelly, too,” Buffy continued. “Was that my name?”
Shannon nodded, her expression dimming still further at Buffy’s use of the past tense.
“Kelly Ann. Kelly because we liked it, Ann for your dad’s mother.”
Her mother gestured at a photo on the floor, but this one wasn’t like the others- it was black and white and slightly blurry- but also framed.
“Did I know her?” Buffy asked, puzzled.
Her mother shook her head.
“She died when Daddy was still a boy.”
So that was where Anne had come from. Buffy had wondered about that. Mom- meaning Joyce- had explained Buffy, but never Anne. She wondered why her first name had been changed, but the middle one left the same. But that wasn’t really the important question here…
“Mom, what happened? How did I end up with another family? Who did this to us?”
Because it had been done to both of them, Buffy knew. Some instinct told her that this was more than just a memory of her mother. This woman was as dead as Joyce.
Her mother hugged her fiercely.
“I don’t know, baby. If I’d known, I would have protected you. I would never have let anyone hurt you or Daddy.”
“I know, but someone did. Why didn’t Daddy stop them?”
That much had come back about her father. She had been her daddy’s princess, and he would have ended anyone who tried to harm her. Her father’s protectiveness had been mostly an abstract to a nine year old, but grown up Buffy was pretty sure his version of protecting his family went every bit as far as her own. She had once told her closest friends she would kill anyone who came near her sister, and she’d meant it, even if it meant the end of the world or the death of a friend. That hadn’t been just the Slayer speaking. That kind of fierce didn’t come out of nowhere.
“Baby, he wasn’t there.”
Her mother looked so sad.
“He was deployed,” Buffy said. “I remember that much. Where was he, Mom? We needed him!”