Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy, NCIS, Tom Clancy's Ryan-verse, or Highlander
A/N: Sorry for the wait. There are now two more chapters left to this story, and I hope to have it finished soon. Also, just so you're aware, there are canon levels of strong language for any Tom Clancy novel featuring these characters.
"John, Ding, how are you two today?"
The elder of the two nodded and said, "Fine thank you, sir. How may we help you today?"
Jack handed each man a folder, which they promptly opened and examined, then he sat back to wait for their questions.
The younger man looked up. "This is a domestic situation, sir."
"That it is," Jack agreed.
"Not really supposed to work domestically," John commented.
"This is true. All I'm asking you to do, though, is go there and have a look around. I don't want you to do anything, just observe."
"May I ask what brought this up?"
"Why we're getting into this, and not the FBI?" Jack asked, smiling.
"They were involved. Okay, the situation is like this: Gibbs, over at NCIS, has a daughter that grew up there, likewise for his senior agent's half-brother. Neither of them knew they had family there until the kids found out their respective dads weren't who they thought they were, and went digging. Well, Gibbs had his people dig around, and spoke with the kids, and got concerned. The stats are in the folder," he added. "Well, Gibbs spoke to Fornell, down the hall, and suggested he might like to have a look into the place. Fornell launched an official investigation into the place – his info is included in your packets, too – but the investigation was called off after the Mayor's office made a call."
John and Ding exchanged wary glances at that. "Who were they looking at at the time?"
"The Mayor's office, local PD. So the FBI are officially off the case, and we can't officially do anything, since it is a domestic matter. However, Fornell spoke to Murray, who spoke to me, and I'm now asking you, unofficially, to wander over to Sunnydale, California, and have a look around."
John sat back, and glanced at Ding before speaking. "So what are we looking at?"
Jack shook his head. "I don't know. The kids apparently talked about gangs, and how it's not safe to be out at night. Gangs on PCP, and death by barbeque fork."
"That's … different," Ding murmured.
"Their deaths and disappearances rates are different," Jack countered. "Look, whatever it is, there is some connection to the high school. There are maybe 4 high schools for about thirty-five thousand people, and two of those are private. The main high school in town is Sunnydale High, and their school paper has an obituary column." Jack sighed as the other two men grimaced at the thought. "To top it off, I've heard vague rumours of a very quiet op starting up, based out of UC Sunnydale, which has no contact, whatsoever, with the base permanently stationed in Sunnydale."
"So..." John began. "Go there, look around, report back to you?"
"Sounds about right. School's finishing up for the year, soon, so you'll have to head out pretty much straight away. Is that going to be a problem?"
"No problem, sir," John replied.
"Good. Talk with Jenny about tickets, and get out there ASAP. And take care. It really isn't safe there, especially after dark."
"Don't worry, boss," Ding grinned as they walked out. "I got my Grandma's crucifix to wear for good luck."
"So you're sure you've got everything?" Tony asked his brother.
"Gods!" Xander moaned. "For the millionth time, Tony, yes, I have everything. And, yes, I do have to leave today, 'cause if I'm going to go everywhere, and do everything that I want to do before I have to get back to DC for my internship, I have to leave now. As it is, I've got a straight four weeks only to get from one side of the country to the other, and back again. That's not much time for the Grand Canyon, let alone the Biggest Ball of String."
"Or Roswell, or Graceland, or any of the other things on your list, yes I know. It's just… Well, I worry, okay?"
"Okay. I get it. And I really appreciate it, honest. At least you care for me. So... Rule three, I've got a cell phone. Rule nine, in my boot. I've got cash on me, and more in my cards. I have fuel in my tank, I have maps, and my route plotted. And last but not least: I have my Twinkies."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Can't forget the Twinkies," he muttered, grinning.
"You've got Twinkies?" came a new voice. "But I bought some!"
Xander spun around and grabbed his best friend into a bearhug. "Always room for more Twinkies. And they'll be Willow Twinkies, which makes them special."
"You really have to go?" she whimpered.
"I really have to go," he agreed.
Once the pair had said their goodbyes, Xander moved onto Gibbs. "So, Gunny..." Xander offered.
"So," Gibbs nodded. He looked at the case in his hands, then back to Xander. "You remember Director Morrow? You should," he smirked. "He's only just moved over to Homeland Security." When Xander nodded, he went on. "Well, he remembered you, how you did when Haswari was after Willow. He pulled some strings." He grunted. "A hell of a lot of strings, actually. Got you this," he finished, handing over a card.
Xander took the card gingerly, and examined it. "It's a federal carry-concealed permit," he murmured, awed.
"It's probably a violation of something, somewhere," Gibbs admitted, "but it's yours. And so is this," he added, handing over a box.
Xander took the case with care, and opened it. Nestled in its lined foam with a SIG Sauer P228 9mm pistol. "Wow," he murmured. He looked over to his brother, who looked grim, but nodded.
"I trust you," Gibbs went on. "You're a very good shot, especially considering your age, and I trust you to only use it when absolutely necessary. Hopefully you never have to use it. Don't make me sorry."
Xander straightened. "No, Gunny, I won't."
Gibbs nodded. "Okay, son. Off you go. And try not to have too much fun," he grinned.
"There you go, Mr Johnson," the concierge smiled as she handed over the roomkey. "And what brings you to Sunnydale? Funeral?"
Easily hiding his surprise at the suggestion, John nodded. "Aunt Agnes."
"Do you know which cemetery she's being interred in? We have twelve to choose from."
"Um, no. I'm going to have to talk to my cousin."
"Well, I hope it all goes well for you and your ..."
"Nephew," Ding offered. "We both live in Vegas, so Uncle Tom said he'd bring me up. We're splitting costs."
"Okay. Well, stay safe," the concierge smiled.
Ding waited until they were in the lift before speaking. "Funeral? She expected us to be here for a funeral?"
"Thirty-odd thousand people, and twelve cemeteries. That's not exactly an encouraging statistic. Let alone what we read."
"Could be worse," John decided.
"I was thinking of calling Aunt Agnes a miserly, homophobic bitch."
Ding made a face as he thought about the implications. "Shit, jefe, that's just mean."
Giles looked up at the clock when he heard a knock at the door, and frowned when he saw how late it was. He checked who was the other side of the door, then quickly flung the door open when he saw who it was. "Xander? I wasn't expecting you until tomorrow!"
The teen grinned tiredly. "Yeah, but when I saw how close I was, I just kept on going. Just didn't feel like spending another night in a motel. I'll be doing enough of that over the next month."
"Well, setting aside the fact that I don't like the idea of you pushing yourself like that, I must say that I am very glad to see you. And congratulations on getting into Georgetown."
"And if it wasn't for a psychopathic politician wanting to become a demon, I would be glad to be here," Xander smirked. "And thanks for the congrats. And the letters of recommendation from you and Sam. I've already spoken to someone in the department about the fact I already have enough Greek and Latin to more than pass their courses. There is a distinct possibility that, since I've already done a year of Sumerian and started on runes and hieroglyphics that I can do those instead."
"Wonderful!" Giles agreed. "That sounds very exciting. Actually, the Council may have someone there – I can't quite remember. Well, let's get you set up for the night. I'll take you around to the school tomorrow. I'm sure Buffy and the others will be glad to see you."
Ding looked around the mall food court. He could see where the renovations had been done after last year's explosion. He still couldn't believe it hadn't made national, if not international news. There had been casualties, and a fucking explosion in a food court/cinema forecourt, and not a peep on any news network that he knew of. He shook his head at it all.
John glanced at his partner. "Yeah. Never heard of anything like it. At least, not on US soil. Shit like this happens, everyone knows about it. Especially in some nice little seaside town this close to LA."
"Not a fucking word, jefe," Ding shook his head in amazement.
"The place doesn't seem to have lost any customers from it," John mused.
Ding snorted. "Only mall, only cinema. You see anywhere else the kids are going to go?"
John grunted and nodded, conceding the point. "Notice something else?" he asked.
The younger man looked around, and shook his head. "No idea. Everything seems normal."
"That's pretty much the point," John nodded. "Crime stats like these, there should be more tension. The people should be nervous, watchful. People have gone missing from here reasonably regularly, and the place itself was hit pretty hard just over a year ago. Yet everyone seems relaxed, not a worry in the world."
Ding frowned, looking at the shoppers with new eyes. "Those stats were pretty recent, weren't they?"
"From ten years ago, to just a couple of months ago," John confirmed. "There has been a decrease in murders and disappearances, starting about two and a half years ago, and then it accelerated about eighteen months ago. Still, this place is as dangerous as any of the worst parts of any large American city, and these people are just wandering around like it's Bloomingdale's."
"It just doesn't make sense," Ding complained.
"No. It really doesn't."
Xander's meeting with the Sunnydale group was happy, with a squeal and a hug from Buffy, and warm smiles from Kendra and Oz. Sam Zabuto shook the younger man's hand, and thanked him for coming all the way to Sunnydale to help. Greetings over, Giles led Xander to the table where their combined plans had been laid out, and they began going over their preparations for Graduation, which was less than a week away.
"What weapons do you have?" Xander asked, his gaze drifting over the various sheets of paper on the table.
"We have ten auto-loading crossbows, and another ten recurve bows – thankfully the archery club is in the know, and were able to supply those for us," Giles smiled gratefully. "We also have sufficient wooden shaft arrows for the twenty archers." He rubbed his forehead in thought. "Uh, we have about a hundred stakes, and I would like another hundred at least, just in case. I also want sufficient crosses so that every student has one."
"This is great, Giles," Xander smiled. "And you need me, why?"
"Are you fishing for compliments?" Giles smirked. "Very well," he nodded, "it's because you see things differently. You notice things. Maybe you'll come up with just the right solution to our problem," he added, shrugging.
"Way to put the pressure on," Xander commented sourly.
Ding frowned as he watched the two men talking in the school carpark. "Jefe," he grunted. "That kid look familiar to you?"
John took the binoculars, and checked the pair his partner had nodded to. "I think…" He reached for a folder, and quickly flipped through. "Huh. That's Gibbs' boy, Alexander DiNozzo. What the hell's he doing here?"
"He's one of the ones that got us into this thing, isn't he?" Ding asked, frowning.
"Yeah," John agreed. "Him and Gibbs' daughter, Willow. They grew up here."
"Maybe he's here for the graduation ceremony," Ding suggested. "You know, come to see old friends graduate?"
John nodded. "He and Gibbs' daughter went to a private school. They probably graduated earlier than Sunnydale High, and came out for their friends."
"Sounds about right," Ding agreed. "I wonder where she is."
John watched the two men get in the car, and, acting on a hunch, pulled out his phone. While Ding looked on, surprised, he quickly dialled, and waited for the answer. "Hey, Jack," he greeted, "it's Tom."
"Tom," Jack Ryan answered, surprised. "It's been months."
"Yeah, I know. Say, I saw your Lexie was in town, and thought I might catch up. But I was thinking it would be great if it was me, Lexie and Will, but I don't have Will's number. Do you have it?"
Jack quickly flipped the file open, and scanned through, making connections. "Uh, I don't have Will's phone number in the office, so I'd have to get back to you with that. Is that okay?"
"Sure," John grinned. "When you can, that'd be great."
"I'll get back to you, then," Jack nodded, then ended the call. He sat for a while, going through his options, then left his office to track down his best option for a little private job.
Mary Patricia Foley set her dog down on the far side of the fence and showed it a ball, which she promptly tossed far into the back yard. She noted with pleasure that is was sufficiently hidden that her pet couldn't find it quickly. She then quickly made her way around to the front of the house, leash wrapped around her hand, and began calling for her dog. She retraced her steps until she reached the fence, and called to her pet by the wrong name.
Mary-Pat was about to decide that she was on a fool's mission, when a young redhead poked her head around the side of the house.
"Are you looking for something?" the redhead asked cautiously.
"Oh, God, I'm such a ditz," Mary-Pat smiled brightly. "Somehow, Tiny got into your yard, and now he won't come to me," she added, gesturing towards the small dog excitedly poking around in the garden.
Willow frowned at the small dog, then looked at the woman. She looked nice enough, but then, so did the Mayor. She shrugged, and fetched the dog, picking it up in her arms and giving it a scratch under the chin. She hoped it wasn't a demon dog. From what Buffy had said of the Prom, hell-hounds were a lot larger. And decidedly less fluffy. She carried the dog back to the fence, but, with a hard-earned caution, she stood back from the fence and held the dog out to the woman.
Mary-Pat found herself in the strange position of having to lean over he fence to take her dog back. She smiled brightly again, and thanked Willow before walking back to her car, loudly chiding her dog. Once in the car, she strapped her dog into its seatbelt, and found her phone. She quickly made her call, not merely advising of the girl's presence at the house, but also of the odd way she'd handed back the pet.
John checked the voice-mail on his phone, and found Jack's message. He listened thoughtfully, then turned to Ding. "The girl's still in DC," he explained, frowning.
The younger man shrugged. "Maybe her dad wouldn't let her come out," he offered. "He knows it's a dangerous place, too dangerous for his little girl."
"It's a graduation ceremony, for fuck's sake," John ground out, frustrated. "These are fucking school kids."
"You know it, man," Ding agreed. "And you know as well as I do, the boy is packing. He lived here, and he's lived in DC. He faced down a suspected terrorist with nothing more than a knife in an ankle sheath. And now he's back, and he's carrying a side-arm? He knows the deal better than we do." He stared at the desk as he turned over an unpleasant idea. "You think maybe Gibbs don't know he's here?"
John stiffened at that thought. He shook his head, and sighed. "Yeah. That's starting to look like a real possibility."