Chapter 43: An Old-Fashioned Vacation

A/N: Man, I'm a soppy mess today; just watched the annual classic 'White Christmas' and it set me to crying. It'd be tempting to do a fanfic about it, but I can't imagine how I could make any of it better. The only thing I could do would be a Slayer version of it. Maybe someday, but for now I'll stick to the update instead.

Warning: I don't know; maybe language and innuendo somewhere along the way.

Challenge: #4472 'Bunny is my what?' by CindyB.

Thanks to my betas: none since I needed to get this posted today.

Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. NCIS characters belong to Donald Bellisario, Don McGill and CBS Paramount Television. Jack Ryan and his friends belongs to Tom Clancy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Posted in honor of the holiday season! Stay safe, everyone!


While Buffy was going through her changes in the dreamscape, the Council decided on a few things concerning all of the people affected by the spell. The major ones were that they would be monitored for any behavioral changes and they were put on administrative leave for at least two weeks…longer if it appeared they needed more time to adjust to their new selves.

Gibbs took the opportunity to call Jenny and tell her that he was taking some of his vacation time. She couldn't say anything – other than griping about the short notice – because he had the most vacation time accrued of anyone working at NCIS. He was getting close to the 'use it or lose it' point, as a matter of fact.

Pending Buffy's approval, the guys in her life made plans to go winter 'camping' at a hunting cabin near Stillwater. There was a lake nearby, and assuming the ice was thick enough, Gibbs and Jackson wanted to take the kids ice fishing. The big problem would be convincing Buffy to give up modern conveniences for two weeks. Oz suggested bribing her that if she went, they'd pay for her to go to a spa for a few of those days so she could relax in luxury and be pampered.

Because nobody wanted to leave Anya unattended or feeling neglected near the end of her pregnancy, Tara offered to stay at the house and keep her company. They would join Buffy at the spa for a little pampering of their own.

So the plans were tentatively set. All they needed was for Buffy to wake up and say yes to them.

Cabin in Pennsylvania

All it took was for Jordy to give Buffy the wolf cub eyes and she caved like a town built on top of a system of tunnels, subjected to a powerful, mystical spell meant to destroy the entrance to other dimensions.

Once they did some shopping and packing, they drove out into the boondocks about an hour from Stillwater and parked along the side of a dirt road near a small garage. Inside the garage were two four-wheel ATVs with attached trailers. "We use these to haul our supplies back and forth to the cabin," Jackson explained as they began to unload the trucks. "With so many of us, though, we may have to make another trip to get all the gear and supplies in."

The cabin was nicer than Buffy feared it would be. Sure, it was more rustic than she normally would like, but it was clean…very clean. As if he guessed where her thoughts went, Jackson spoke up again, "We are serious about the cleanliness of the cabin when we leave it. Any messes that are left attract the wildlife and we don't want this becoming a dump, so we have a checklist that everyone has to adhere to or they won't be allowed back," he added, pointing to a clipboard next to the door. Just like he said, there were several copies of a checklist with things to do before leaving.

There were a couple things missing from the picture, though.

"Uhh, where are the faucet and light switches?" Buffy asked, nervous about what the answer would be. To her, 'rustic' would mean no TV or phone.

"Don't have either," Gibbs answered with a grin. "Out back is hand pump for water during the warmer months and we use lanterns for light. The outhouse is outside to the right about fifty feet."

"We have a few tricks to help keep it from smelling too bad," Jackson cut in before the younger people could cringe too much. "Two of the big ones are dumping water in every once in a while to help the good bacteria to grow and dumping ash from the stove to cut the smell and force…everything down to the bottom of the pit. When we have a lot of people using the cabin for a long time, we also have them throw their toilet paper in a garbage can instead of down the hole. Worst case scenario, we have some of that spray stuff to cut the smell. Usually don't have to resort to it, though."

"How are we supposed to clean up?" Oz inquired curiously. He knew that if things got too gross, they could always go into town and rent a hotel room for their showers.

Gibbs knocked on a door on the far side of the kitchen. "Back here is a sauna. We use it to sweat off the dirt, then rinse ourselves off with a bucket of water. Does a good enough job for the few days that we're usually here."

"Okay," Buffy reluctantly agreed, "But I reserve the right to find a way to take a shower in town every so often if I start to feel too icky."

"That's fine, sweetheart," Gibbs replied. "We'll have to go to town every few days anyway for supplies. There isn't enough space to store everything we need for five people for more than that. Speaking of which, we should double check for any signs of mice or squirrels before we unpack everything."

"You do that while I get the stove going," Jackson ordered, moving to go back outside for a load of wood.

Thankfully for Buffy's sanity, there were no signs of wildlife in the building, so they started unloading their gear. Gibbs warned them that whoever took the loft would get really warm during the night due to the heat from the stove. Because of the added privacy being upstairs would provide her, Buffy decided to risk the stuffiness and hauled her stuff up the ladder.

When she unrolled her sleeping bag on the mattress (which was zipped up in a plastic cover to keep the critters and humidity away) and set out a couple sets of clothes and her toiletries bag, Buffy climbed back downstairs to help with the rest of the supplies.

On the back of the stove was a water reservoir that held 25 gallons for them to use for cooking and washing the dishes that weren't paper products; the paper was burned in the fire after each meal. Most of the pots and pans were cast iron, and it looked like Dada Jack was re-seasoning them before starting dinner. At least that's what he said he was doing.

Buffy decided to put her Slayer muscles to use and grabbed the five gallon water jugs to pour into the reservoir.

"If you really want to take care of the water, there's another reservoir in the sauna that needs to be filled as well," Gibbs teased as he walked in with another armload of wood. Jordy was following closely behind with his own armful of smaller branches. "All we need for the sauna is wood and water, both of which we have plenty of so we can use it every night if we want."

By the time both vehicles were completely unloaded and all the empty 5-gallon jugs were back in the bed of the truck for a refill when they went back to town, the fire was going full blast and the warmth spread throughout the kitchen quickly. There was just enough time before dark to pull the ice fishing house out onto the lake with one of the ATVs, and clear some ice nearby for ice skating (for when the younger generation grew bored of fishing). To smooth out the ice rink, they drilled a hole in the ice using the auger and scooped out buckets of water to pour over the clearing until it was mostly bump-free.

The coffee and hot chocolate that they made back in the cabin was much appreciated by the group, as well as the cozy warmth created by the stove. They had a simple meal of pre-prepared spaghetti that was warmed up on the stove before Oz entertained them with his acoustic guitar. Still, it was a bit of a shock to the system to go to sleep before nine. But they were warned that their day would start at five the next morning, so bedtime was accepted with minimal grumbling.

After a few days, the routine became rather relaxing…something that was a huge shock to the self-described 'city girl'. That wasn't to say she didn't take full advantage of the showers in town at the local YMCA. She didn't do a lot of fishing, preferring to skate instead, but she did spend an hour or so each day in the fish house with the guys. She traded cleaning the fish with Jordy for skating lessons. Gutting fish was a lot grosser than gutting demons for some reason.

The cabin life – aside from going outside to take care of nature – was pretty cool. Their meals were pretty simple, but filling and tasty. Her new favorite activity was taking a sauna; they were so going to have to get one of those for the house back in DC! And every evening they would listen to Oz strum his guitar while they played cards or dice games like Yahtzee and Farkel. When he joined in the games with the others, they would listen to the radio. All-in-all, it was a very soothing break from their busy lives – especially the past several months and all the emotional roller-coastering it brought, both good and bad.

Buffy learned about her first Sineya enhancement one day when a snow-ladened branch snapped and was about to hit Jordy. She pushed him out of the way, causing it to hit her instead, but despite the fairly big size of it, she didn't even have so much as a welt on her head. The only clue about what happened was her purple-tinted hair and her clothes changing to a silver armor. Taking one look at herself in the mirror, she shrugged and quipped, "It could be worse; it could be plaid or polka dots or some other fashion disaster."

DC area

As the Gibbs and Osbourne families enjoyed their break from civilization, Tara did all she could to help Anya with J.R. and Anya's writing. She also ran a lot of errands when Anya had certain cravings. Currently, it was popcorn. But not just any popcorn; it had to be air-popped with real butter and just a hint of salt and Kraft cheese powder (from their Mac & Cheese boxes). Fortunately, Tara found a store that sold the powder in separate bottles.

The day before the girls were supposed to meet Buffy at the spa and hand over J.R. to the guys, they had a couple surprise visitors.

"Wes! Fred! What are you two doing here?" Tara asked when she found them on the front doorstep.

The pair looked at each other nervously, then dove into their explanation. "We left Wolfram & Hart," Wes stated bluntly.

"What Wes meant to say was that we had to leave," Fred clarified when it didn't seem like he was going to expand on his statement. "There are some people in the company who have tried to capture us so they could study Sineya…or the closest thing they could get to her. They were hoping that if they could figure out how to pull her out of us – or force her to do their bidding – they could either destroy or control the Slayer line."

"We got lucky that it was Sineya in the sarcophagus, but still it served as a reminder to us that we've put ourselves in a dangerous position," Wes added with a hint of dejection. "And for what? Have we really made a difference in our time there? Or have we been fooling ourselves thinking that we could?"

Tara wisely kept her mouth shut, despite her own opinion of Angel's group joining Evil Inc. This was something they needed to vent about before they made any plans for their future. Thankfully Anya was busy packing for the spa because there was no way that she'd keep quiet.

"The others are working on a way to take at least the LA branch down for good," Fred confided. "Then they'll do as much damage as possible before leaving, too. We all decided that it was just too dangerous for Wes and me to stay. We couldn't put the Slayer line at risk like that."

"You're welcome to join the Council…assuming you pass the entrance interview. Not that I would think there would be a problem with that, of course. After all, Sineya put a bit of herself in you," Tara assured them with a warm smile. "If the others want, we can make them the same offer."

Wes appeared contemplative for a moment, then shook his head. "As tempting as the offer is, I'm not sure it'll work out – at least for the others. I wouldn't mind giving it another try now that the Council is something to be proud of, but I think Angel works best as a free agent, so to speak. He probably wouldn't mind being an official ally, and go ahead and make the offer to him. I'm just telling you what I think his answer will be."

"Fair enough," Tara said with a shrug of her shoulders. "I imagine that it would be hard to go from leader of the pack to another team member. Plus you guys have your own group dynamics. Trying to force everyone together would probably blow up in our faces later on. Until you make your decision, you're welcome to stay here. They have plenty of space. We do have plans for the next couple days, but you can join us if you want."

"What's that?" Fred asked, relieved that they weren't being treated like a semi-ally; the kind that are just the lesser of two evils. They already knew that everyone – from Buffy and Giles, down to the newest Slayers and Watchers – were given an entrance interview. She still wasn't sure how that worked for the heads of the Council, though.

"The girls are having a spa weekend and the guys are hanging at the cabin for a few last days. Then Buffy has to meet with a team from the Coven to be sure she's ready to go back to work," Tara explained.

"I wouldn't mind a spa weekend…Wes?" Fred turned and gave him her biggest pleading eyes. The poor guy never stood a chance. Hopefully he wouldn't make too big of a fool of himself out in the wilderness.

A/N: Next…Unless Musie comes up with another idea, we're gonna head to the next crisis…as soon as I figure out how to set it up (If it should be strictly human or if it should have some supernatural element to it).