Summary: Bet Ethan never expected his little prank to result in this.
Warning: I don't know; maybe language and innuendo somewhere along the way.
Timeline: season 2 BtVS 'Halloween'; up to season 5 episode 9 'Lost and Found' NCIS.
A/N: I realize that Hollis Mann was several inches taller than Buffy, but let's pretend she was able to get them to fit, 'k?
Thanks to my betas: zigpal, AerynSpeedleCaine and AshDawnSoulmates.
Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
Sunnydale High lunchroom
Sunnydale High lunchroom
Xander risked his finger when he poked the Slayer with it. "C'mon, Buffy…Willow's agreed to do it. Why won't you?" he pleaded. Having all three of them go in matching costumes was his best idea ever, and Buffy was screwing it up by not doing it.
"Because those uniforms are just so not flattering!" Buffy replied with a pout.
Since she pulled out the 'pout', Xander decided to fight fire with fire. He turned to Willow and said, "Okay, Willow. Time to pull out the big guns; give her your resolve face and I'll hit her with the puppy eyes. She won't be able to resist."
Before they could subject her to the one-two combination, Buffy threw her hands up in the air. "Fine! But you owe me big time for this! I had a great idea for a costume and you've totally screwed that up now," she practically growled. She saw a real slinky dress from a night club singer from the 40s that would make Angel forget his name.
"Do you need directions to the military surplus store?" Xander asked while he did the Snoopy dance in his head. He wasn't as stupid as Cordelia and her sheep thought; he knew about the dress, and while he wouldn't mind seeing Buffy in it, there was no way Deadboy should get to. "I'll get us some plastic guns from that costume shop on Pickett Avenue…umm, Ethan's, I think it is."
"No. I have a leftover uniform from one of my relatives," the blonde Slayer admitted. When Willow looked at her with the obvious question in her eyes, Buffy explained, "She thought my mom could use it for grunge work at the gallery or home and not worry about stains or anything. It's kinda big on me, but should be okay for one night. I certainly don't want to pay money for something like this since I'm never going to wear it again."
Five weeks later…
Five weeks later…
After her mom gave her the letter that told them her aunt's plans, Buffy waited until she went back to the gallery before quickly calling Washington, DC. When the other party answered, she asked, "Aunt Holly?"
Back in her home office, Hollis Mann was stunned to hear from her niece – not to mention very worried. She didn't even want to consider what would make the teenager call instead of waiting for Joyce to call. "Buffy? What's wrong?" she demanded, her concern clear over the twenty-seven hundred miles.
"Nothing…exactly," Buffy hedged. Now that she was talking to her aunt, she wasn't entirely sure how to tackle the problem. Oh well, direct was always best with Aunt Holly. "I was just calling to stop you from making a majorly bad mistake."
Relieved that nobody was sick or in imminent danger, Hollis couldn't figure out what mistake Buffy was trying to save her from. "What are you talking about?"
"You remember the weirdness that is my life?" the young Slayer asked rhetorically; only those who were in denial mode would forget learning about things that go bump in the night.
Hollis fingered the scar on her shoulder that she told Gibbs came from combat. It was technically the truth; it just wasn't from military combat. When Buffy came to visit over the summer – yes, the summer she was supposed to be with her father, who was too busy to have her the whole three months, the stupid jerk! – they were attacked by a demon. It got a lucky swipe in on Hollis before Buffy took its head off with a saw blade Gibbs had left at her place, and that she had in her car to give back to him. She shook her head to clear the memory and inquired, "Yes. What does that have to do with me, though?"
"My friends and I were forced to dress up for Halloween and chaperone trick-or-treaters. Xander wanted us all to go as soldiers, so I used one of those uniforms you sent Mom as my costume," Buffy started.
"Go on," the retired Army CID colonel prompted, knowing there had to be more to the story.
"Some guy did a spell that turned us into who or whatever we dressed as," Buffy said with a chagrinned tone. "Which – since I was wearing your uniform – meant that I turned…"
"Into me," Hollis finished when Buffy trailed off. What would that be like, to suddenly be somebody else? Especially somebody who was still alive.
Unaware of her aunt's musings, Buffy kept talking, "Uh-huh, and that meant I had all the memories of your life up until you stopped wearing that particular uniform. And it happened to be the one of the uniforms you sent just before Halloween." She was trying to lead her aunt to the subject without simply stating it bluntly.
But her aunt wasn't helping her. "What are you trying not to say to me, Buffy?" Hollis demanded. Her niece couldn't think she was making a mistake by retiring, could she? Why would she?
Buffy rolled her eyes at her aunt's obliviousness. Didn't the timing strike her as the least bit telling? C'mon, right before she sent the uniforms, what major life choice did she make? "I know about you and that guy Jethro Gibbs…and why you broke up with him."
Still hurting over the break-up, Hollis snapped defensively, "That's the big mistake you want to save me from?" She had hoped that Gibbs would have fought for her a little.
"A little," the teen admitted. "I didn't say anything until now 'cause I was hoping you'd figure it out on your own."
"So what's changed your mind?" her aunt asked warily.
"Mom told me that you're retiring in Hawaii," Buffy practically accused.
Hollis didn't think it was jealousy over going to Hawaii that set her niece off. "And you don't think I should," she stated instead of asking. The answer was obvious enough.
"You love him!"
The older blonde sighed heavily in resignation, then reminded the younger one, "And he still loves his dead wife and daughter."
"So?" Buffy demanded with the impetuousness of youth. Even with everything that she fought on a nightly basis, she still believed in the power of love.
The sad thing was, so did Hollis Mann. But it was Gibbs' dead love that she thought still held too much power. "I can't compete with that," she admitted reluctantly, hating to show weakness – even to Buffy. Or maybe especially to Buffy.
"So don't. Don't ask him to choose between you and them. Let him love all three of you," Buffy said with a maturity beyond her years.
Which didn't go unnoticed by her aunt. "Since when did you get so wise about love?" Hollis wondered aloud.
She could practically hear the soft smile on Buffy's face as she responded, "Since I became my aunt for the evening. I already knew from hearing things Mom told me about you guys how happy he made you – and that was before I saw it from your perspective. What you told her barely scratched the surface. I'm willing to bet that he loves you just as much – which you obviously already know. What are you really afraid of?"
Since she didn't have any other excuse to hide behind, Hollis finally admitted her fear, "What if I really do become the fourth ex-Mrs. Gibbs?" She remembered hearing the younger agents make comments to that effect. It was easy to laugh it off, but it really bothered her.
"Don't think it will happen, but at least you won't have to live with the question of what could have been." When her aunt didn't say anything right away, Buffy pointed out, "If you go to Hawaii, you'll always wonder."
Hollis sighed again, knowing that Buffy was right…unfortunately. "I don't know if I should punch the person who turned you into me, or thank them."
"Don't worry, I've already punched him," Buffy said with a little too much glee in her voice. Man, her and Gibbs together would make a frightening combination. "Thanking him would just encourage him, so we'll skip that idea. Oh, and if you guys get married, I so deserve to be a bridesmaid – with a beautiful dress, not a nightmare one," Buffy ordered in her best fake colonel voice.
Laughing, Hollis agreed. She only hoped that Gibbs would. "Hell, I might make you my maid of honor. But I'm keeping you far, far away from DiNozzo," she warned, cutting off any possibility before it could happen.
Buffy just scoffed at the concern, "Don't think he'd be interested in jailbait, anyway. Besides, he's not my type. But if you hear of a younger Gibbs…I would be more than satisfied with an introduction."
There was a moment of comfortable silence before Hollis whispered, "Thanks, squirt."
"Always happy to give you a kick in the-" Buffy started to say.
Hollis interjected before she could finish the sentence, "Language, young lady!"
"Ass," Buffy finished anyway. When her aunt started to make sputtery sounds, she added pointedly, "Don't pretend you're shocked; I know better."
Deciding not to fight a losing battle, Hollis let it go. Instead, she started planning her op to win Gibbs back. "I'll let you know what happens with Jethro," she promised.
A/N: Can't you just picture Hollis as Joyce's sister? Well, more like picturing her as Buffy's aunt, but you know what I mean.