DISCLAIMER: This is a non-profit work of fanfiction and is in no way a challenge to any existing copyrights.
SETTING: The Lock, if you don't know you need to start back at "Life on the Farm" otherwise you may wonder how all these familiar characters got into such unfamiliar situations.
SPOILERS: Buffy, Angel, NCIS, The Executioner all are fair game in this AU. As is Supernatural.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Seven stories in and eight is plotted out...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To Wyldchilde37[at]yahoo.com
By Dark Wyldchilde
As Tara rolled her wheelchair into the control room she found herself entering in the middle of a conversation.
One of the people involved was Timothy McGee. "Wait, so you guys are telling me that you don't believe in supernatural conspiracies? I mean, say a year ago ago if I told you I believed in vampires and werewolves you'd tell me I play too many video games."
Another conversant was Anthony DiNozzo. "You do play too many video games."
Tim rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean Tony."
Tara figured that Tim was holding down the fort for Willow as the only other person in the control room was Ziva David and while she was versed in computers they were not a primary part of her skill set.
It was the former Mossad officer who responded to Tim. "We obviously believe in the supernatural. We have been officially battling it here at the Lock for four months now. It is the 'conspiracy' part that we are skeptical about. If you were to believe more traditional conspiracy theories my people control the worlds banks."
DiNozzo grinned his typical expression at David. "Wait! You mean you don't?"
Ziva smirked her own cocky expression right back. "We prefer the term 'advise."
Tim had turned fully from the terminal he was sitting at to look at the other two who were more lounging in the comfortable chairs kept for the control room staff who often had to spend many hours on end in them.
"So you two are just saying it's impossible." McGee then noticed Tara. "Wait. Tara should know!"
Tara wasn't sure what she should know, but she took her hands off the wheels to her chair to cross them in her lap and wait for Tim to actually ask. As soon as she did so both Tony and Ziva leapt up to wheel her closer.
That got the pair a soft scowl as Tara wheeled herself closer to the trio. It had been like that all during her recovery. While she was working hard on physical therapy and getting herself back in a field ready condition her people were falling over themselves to coddle her.
She shouldn't be mad, and she knew it was a result of how well she took care of them, but even if she was an invalid now she WAS going to be back in shape so she could fight along side her partner and her people if that was what was needed.
They slunk back with similar guilty grins and sat down as Tim asked his question. "Are there supernatural conspiracies out there?"
Tara smiled. "Conspiracy' has a dark overtone to it. In many cases species simply learned to hide themselves... like vampires, for the most part all agreed to keep a semi-low profile."
That got various frowns from the three members of Gibbs team. One of their more recent cases had been when an old school mate of Scooby Squad and Oracle who had been turned into a vampire at their graduation had almost gotten her own reality show.
While they all shook their heads in dumbfounded shock most of the time, the secret they had fought so hard to keep had come frighteningly close to being exposed for nothing more then fifteen minutes of fame.
In one way or another all four of them shook themselves out of contemplating the horrid results of that ridiculous story coming to pass.
Tara then continued. "As far as actual conspiracies I only know of one. They tend to divide the supernatural world into a us versus them mentality. If someone is willing to work with, or even for them they are given the best backing possible while those who don't are analyzed, and if they pose a possible threat they are eliminated."
All three looked at Tara in shock at her matter-of-fact description of this nefarious network. It was Tony's slightly shocked voice that spoke. "Do we know what they are called?"
Tara just gave all three her patented half-grin.
Ziva was the first to figure it out. "All right! Are there any other supernatural conspiracies out there besides us?"
Tara kept the expression. "We're the only one I know about. There was also the Watcher's Council, but they were wiped out by agents of the First Evil."
All three knew the rough outline of the story as all of Scooby Squad had spent at least some of their earlier monster hunting careers under the "guidance" of the Watchers Council. Of course everyone also knew how the Council had handled Faith back in the day so no one really mourned them.
The blond however had come there with a purpose other then the discussion. "But that's not important right now. I want all of you to get dressed up. The Lock's combat arms are going out clubbing in LA. You all have been working yourselves into the ground and have earned some R&R."
Ziva had sat up at Tara's statement. "Will Abigail be allowed to accompany us as well?"
Tara shook her head. "I wouldn't even want to try to keep Abby from going out clubbing with us. I just mean that we won't be taking every black suit. By the same token Uncle Gibbs has already expressed his regrets." They all knew that was an understatement, even if Gibbs hadn't said an actual word to tell Tara he wasn't going out clubbing.
"It's just going to be a controlled size. Myself, Faith, Scooby Squad, you three, Abby, and Lex." That got a series of nods because while the Lock had combat resources most were either security, patrolling, or training for rotation out to help keep an eye on various corners of the world. When it came to the Lock actively pursuing it's goal of combating supernatural threats it was usually one combination or another of that short list.
Tim called in a tech to keep an eye on the system before he got up to get ready, but everyone else, including Tara slipped off to prepare.
Tara was now ready, her chair parked out in front of the armory. She was however frowning as she looked down at her navy blue dress. It was still showing some of the eclectic patterns she preferred, but something seemed to displease her about it.
Faith was there with her and noticed. Leaning in she rested her arms on Tara's shoulders and kissed the top of her woman's head. "Something wrong Gorgeous?"
Tara paused seeming to decide if she should speak, when she did she was still obviously reluctant. "My wardrobe seems to have gotten darker since..."
Faith finished the thought with a grin. "Since you started shacking up with me rather then Red."
Her partner was obviously relived that her old relationship was no longer the sore spot it had been. "Yeah."
Faith's maroon lipsticked smile simply grew. "That's because you've gotten in touch with your inner bad ass."
That shifted Tara's expression to surprise. "There's a bad ass inside me?"
The responding expression Faith gave still seemed playful, but was utterly sincere. "Totally."
For her part Tara's expression then grew saucy. "Are you sure? The only time I thought I had a bad ass inside me was when it was her fingers or tongue."
Faith hugged Tara from behind. "See? Now that's the kind of thing a bad ass would say."
Her bad ass nature never in argument, Faith's wardrobe was all dark colors from a sleeveless, low cut top in a maroon similar to her lipstick and nails that was almost as fitted as the black leather pants she had on.
She had even forgone the combat boots she seemed to prefer ever since it sunk in that she literally had storerooms of them available to her for black leather boots that matched her pants.
Faith's hair was still flowing and loose, but with enough curl Tara could tell some effort had been put into making it look that way. Something that provided a contrast to Tara's straight blonde locks, and darker, but still not as dark as Faith's, makeup.
Soon the rest of their people were joining them. Ziva arrived in the cargo pants that Abby described as "Taking Ziva's ass from being merely a thing of beauty to a thing of actual worship." The Israeli's top was light, but long sleeved in an olive that complemented the combat boots David HAD opted to wear for a mil-spec sort of appearance.
Her lover Abby arrived with her, and revealed to everyone that the typical look they saw her in was Goth-lite while now she was in all her Gothic glory in full black, with t-shirt that was fitted and pants that were anything but. The pants fit normally at Abby's' waist but then flowing to envelop her legs in fabric, straps and buckles.
Even the Goth's ubiquitous collar was now highly polished metal.
Tony was more high class, but still VERY stylish in a man's black suit with the only splashes of color being his clean white shirt, red tie, and silvered watch and ring.
Tim was more sedate in Khaki's, black shoes, and a black button down shirt.
When Scooby Squad arrived Buffy seemed as intent as Faith to show off the physique a slayer metabolism gave a woman as she too was in leather pants, but these a bright red, with boots done the same and a long sleeved black top. Her hair however while nice was simply hanging straight.
Angel, was in black leather pants and boots and a loose fit white top. Xander, in khaki pants, brown shoes and a black loose fit, long sleeve shirt actually grinned, pointing over at Lex who had arrived with them.
"Don't worry, I had Lex check. While he might be dressing like Angelus tonight he's still Angel."
Both Buffy and Angel scowled at Xander's statement.
With Giles opting out for similar reasons as Gibbs that left Lex.
Lex showed herself to be another witch well in touch with her inner bad ass because she was all in black. Though her boots were the only thing leather her pants were well fit, even fitted, while her long sleeved shirt was semi-transparent and gave a lovely view of the black bra she had on underneath.
While some small talk started it ended fast enough when two white stretch limos pulled up in front of them and pulled to a smooth stop.
Once the vehicles had come to a complete stop a young black man with shaven head wearing a clean white suit stepped out.
Angel was the first to recognize him. "Gunn" was all the former vampire said as he stepped forward and the men shook hands. Gunn however was having none of that and pulled the other man into a hug. Which to most everyone's surprise Angel accepted.
Other brief greetings were shared between Gunn, Scooby Squad and Lex.
Gunn then turned and Tara gave his first name as she smiled and said "Charles".
Charles leaned in and kissed her cheek. "Hey Tara." He then gave Faith a hug before turning to the rest of the assembly and speaking up. "Okay, those who know who I am go ahead and pile into the second limo, while those who don't can get into the first one with Tara, Faith, and myself so they can hear the tale and ask any questions they might have."
They all did so, but as they slipped into the limo Ziva had an entirely different question. "The drivers?"
Gunn smiled. "Blacksuits, know who we are and what we are up against. They know what to do in an emergency, and how to keep their mouths shut afterwards."
Ziva was obviously satisfied with the answer and nodded as she sat back with Abby on her right and Tony on her left.
There was a brief pause as Faith picked up Tara to help her into the car while Gunn folded the wheelchair and put it in the trunk, but soon everyone was in and comfortable.
As he did so he explained. "I was actually tempted to get something more chair accessible, but with two carloads of people paid to be muscular, and all loving you like we do I figured it wasn't really necessary."
Tara gave him a mostly good natured scowl as she was held in Faith's arms. "Fine, fine, but can we get me seated please?"
Faith slipped Tara gently into the limo and stole a kiss as she did so.
Tony opted to comment at that point. "Do we all get a kiss if we help Tara into or out of the car, because if so I volunteer."
What he got was one of the telekinetic head slaps Tara had come up with as everyone got into the car, but he bore it was a smile.
After everyone was seated comfortably and the cars had started out Gunn continued. "Okay, is everyone here fairly familiar with Angel's story? At least the parts that happened in this century with Buffy?"
Tony nodded. "Twilight without the sparkles."
That got a chorus of muted laughs from everyone, including Gunn. "Exactly, but at one point Angel decided he couldn't be around Buffy so he came to LA and ended up starting a 'detective agency', which of course always ended up fighting assorted monsters. At this point in the story I was living the LA cliche, looking up at all the lights from street level. What most didn't realize was that at street level you were considered easy pickings by the monsters hunting those bright lit nights."
It was obvious they hadn't thought of that as Gunn kept speaking. "I had organized my people to fight back when I first crossed paths with Angel. Some enemies in common grew to fighting side by side and I ended up part of his crew, including when we took over Wolfram and Heart LA."
Everyone's expressions looked more knowing at that point. "I was there at the fall too. Could say I survived, but honestly I think I died, but was having trouble coming to terms with it."
That got almost matching scowls from Faith and Tara, to which Gunn gave a sardonic grin. "Anyway, when Faith rode the in with the Calvary I was probably forty percent gone, and fading fast. Normal medicine could make me comfortable, or put me out of my misery, and magick didn't have enough left of me to work with, but the Lock had another option."
Gunn took a deep breath. "It's now called Adam Tech. Back when B and her crew were in their first year of college, our predecessors, the Initiative created this cyber-demonoid called Adam. Part man, part machine, part demon the tech eventually made it's way to the Lock after passing through another set of hands or two where they were able to use it to save me."
He kept his smile, but it was obviously forced. "Problem was that psycho bitch who put him together knew something we didn't. The shock the human body undergoes when getting the implants is insane. While I was in the forties when they got me to the Lock another twenty percent of my body died on the table as they were trying to save me. On top of that my ability to heal is just about zero."
Everyone, but Faith, Tara and Gunn looked shocked and Gunn just nodded. "The demon bits Walsh put in were there to allowed Adam to heal his body as much as they were to make him even more buff. So while I can go terminator if I really need too the experimental tech keeping me going could have a broken finger needing a six digit repair bill while any damage to my remaining organics would mean the organic bit would probably need to be replaced with even more tech."
Tara then interrupted. "So I put Gunn to work in other areas. He is my representative, OUR man in the field for all the things that can't simply be shot at."
Faith continued Tara's thought seamlessly. "Like he bought and supplied the safe house you guys used when Tara and I were laid up."
Gunn was only half a step behind. "And while I would have given damn near anything to have rode with you guys when you nailed the bastards who hurt our two girls here I was able to help behind the scenes, and I can help you guys blow off some steam now."
A flash of guilt crossed Gunn's face and both Faith and Tara shared a look before Tara addressed it. "Yes Charles you were the one who told us the best spot to look for the source of the Witches Powder, but you also where the one who stabilized us as the chopper arrived."
Abby interrupted then. "He wasn't in Willow's reports."
Faith was the one to answer. "And he won't be. At least not in the one's commonly circulated. One of Gunn's greater strengths is that he is just a lawyer in LA. All official records just have him acting on behalf of his 'clients', a list he is full on expected to keep secret, even now were just friends he's showing a good time. We don't want him too connected to our official channels. Those are already nice and strong. Gunn is more our ace kept mostly up the sleeve."
Gunn's smile had become more genuine. "But I have LA wired, and can get you guys all you need for your well earned resting and relaxing. So we decided to add me to this hand."
Tony then spoke up. "Okay, that sounds a little sinister."
Tim however interrupted him. "Says the guy who did basically the exact same thing for Director Sheppard."
DiNozzo however came right back. "And look how that worked out."
Tara's gaze seemed somewhere off in the distance and Faith slipped a hand between the witches two as the blond spoke.
"Tony, you have to understand that one of those sets of hands that Charles implants passed through before making their way to us was using them to experiment on wounded troops coming back from overseas, and from what we recovered they weren't operating on their own. By the same token I can still describe to you the gleam that came into former President Bush's eyes when I updated him on the awakening of the slayer line."
As Tony's eyebrows arched in question Tara nodded. "I managed to talk him out of it, but he WAS dreaming of putting our girls out there to do what he would call winning the War on Terror, but would be just as likely assuring Halliburton a record quarterly report. I wish I could think of things as just one happy family, but the family I was born to looks functional by comparison."
Gunn held up his hands. "Woooooah... Okay. WAY to serious of a discussion for a night like tonight. Alright?"
That had Tara blushing. "Yes, sorry."
Abby, as was perhaps her nature, decided to try to bring the atmosphere back to a lighter level. "So where is it you're taking us Gunn?"
His one word reply was delivered with a smile. "Apostate."
Tony frowned. "That too sounds kind of sinister."
Tara was frowning right along with him. "It should. It means one who has renounced their religion."
Faith was grinning lasciviously. "Hey, it's all part of the fun. It's that thrill of doing something you want to do, but everyone else thinks you shouldn't. You know? That pounding of the heart, that tightening of the belly. That bone deep knowledge that you're not supposed to be doing it, and that's what going to make it so much fun. They obviously wanted a name that said that, and 'taboo' was pretty much done to death in like the seventies and eighties."
Much to most everyone's surprise Tim spoke next. "You mean like the 'Naked Lady Parties' on the roof of the Lock?"
Tara and Abby both blushed, while Faith and Ziva both smirked as Faith replied. "Exactly!"
While Tony had a small scowl of dissatisfaction Gunn now looked VERY interested.
That got a round of laughter from the rest of the car as they continued on into the night.
For a club that set out to shock none of the Lock's people were, but then again the things they had seen and done in their pasts tended to dwarf most everything else.
For the standard club goer the black with red neon conjured up enough of a post-modern Dante-esque look too justify the long line in front of the club.
A long line that the two limos pulled to the front of.
That understandably caught everyone's attention, and all eyes were on them as they disembarked. Something that included Tara getting out of the car and into her wheelchair.
One of the people in line felt the need to comment on that. "Okay! What the hell does she plan on doing in a dance club?"
His first answer came from many of those standing in line with him as they looked at him incredulously. He however was more focused on the expressions of the wheelchair bound woman's friends, and the fact their expressions were unified, not just in their hostility, but in the way they seemed to turn in unison at the comment.
The man might have made the comparison between facing down a pack of wolves, or even a pride of lions, but many there thought the groups expression seemed to be sizing him up to see if there was enough meat on his bones to make him worth ripping apart.
It was a question that went unanswered as the broad shouldered young black man in jeans and a zipped up black leather jacket, who had been tending the doors strode over, speaking to the commentator in line. "Well pal, you ain't going to be finding out what she'll do in there because you're not getting in. You wanna stand in line knock yourself out though."
That got a scowl from the white guy who was dressed like an Ed Hardy advert, but he seemed to realize more then his pride would be hurt if he spoke again, and simply slunk off.
The massive bouncer turned to Gunn and smiled as the pair shared a handshake that turned into a one-armed hug. Pulling back they were both smiling as the bouncer spoke. "Charles! This the group you called about?"
Gunn was smiling as he nodded. "The same, a group of bad ass men and women who earned some SERIOUS R and R and I knew I couldn't take them anywhere but Apostate and look at myself in the mirror in the morning."
A ripple seemed to go through the crowd, and it seemed that the military term R&R caught their attention.
Suddenly people seemed more respectful of Tara's chair. While they all knew Gunn wouldn't have told the nature of how they served their country, and couldn't have without risking being declared mentally incompetent, the picture, minus the supernatural elements, seemed to be understood and respected.
The bouncer was cutting them ahead of the line, and this time had no trouble getting people to make way for Tara's chair. As he ushered them in the found the post-modern Inferno theme continued with blacks and reds and flickering lights.
If you continued the theme then it would have been purgatory that they got ushered into as the acoustics had been combined with what they would guess was sound dampening materials so the music was still audible, but not all consuming like the rest of the club. Just like the lighting was similarly muted from that of the main areas, making the VIP section a haven of respite from the rest of the club.
As their party arrived the bouncer turned to them. "All right, my names Grey, some have taken to calling me Cerberus. You need me ask for either and they can find me, but the owner should be by soon enough after he knows Gunn's crew has finally arrived."
With a nod to Gunn himself Grey departed. Tara arched a brow at her representative and he smiled. "I might have given financing options other then banks or syndicates when it came to opening this place up. It keeps me known, and has all the people you need me to know seeking me out."
Tara arched her brow appreciatively, and then smiled. She then wheeled to face everyone else. "Team Wet Dream front and center."
Faith, Lex and Ziva all looked both amused and confused, but compliant as they formed a line in front of Tara as the blond started speaking. "Okay, as we know Faith here adores me more then anything, but as we also know another great love of hers is dancing. Since I am indisposed I am ordering you to get her out on that dance floor by any means necessary!"
For her part Faith was grinning, but obviously not on board with Tara's order. "Babe, come on..." Though the normally fierce Slayer tone wasn't present, it more a halfhearted complaint, and everyone could hear it.
So Lex grabbed one of Faith's arms. "You heard the woman 'Any means necessary."
Ziva grabbed the other. "And we are not about to disobey orders." Ziva took Abby's hand with the one that wasn't holding onto Faith and the train of four women made their way out to the dance floor.
Gunn was smiling at the display. "I'll save you from having to meet with anyone you don't know and just go meet him myself, but we've got a tab..." He paused and yelled to the women making their way to dance. "We've got a tab!"
They nodded and waved their comprehension. Gunn however wasn't done. "Still I think McGee and I should head over to the bar and buy some of the fine ladies here some drinks on that tab."
Tim obviously didn't know what to do with himself at the club, and whether he realized or not that Gunn had noticed as much and deliberately decided to take the man under his wing he smiled and nodded. "Lead on."
While Xander had grown up quite a bit with his time at the Lock he remembered when he was more like McGee then not and hurried to follow the two men. "I'll join you guys."
Buffy didn't so much speak as start tugging Angel to the dance floor in a manner that said the man could walk or be carried, but he was going.
Tara turned to Tony and started to speak, but he cut her off. "Nah uh. The Boss would kill me if I left you alone when you are able bodied."
She frowned, but realizing how lucky she had been getting Faith to relax and have fun dancing, trying to leave herself without an escort would get her into even more trouble then Tony. So she nodded reluctantly. "Well you can have at least one drink. Though I should probably stick with water or soda since I'm still on several meds."
With that Tony ordered his drink and a bottled water for Tara and used the DiNozzo charm to be a worth while companion for Miss Maclay.
Not much later in the evening Tara and Tony were watching out on the dance floor where Team Wet Dream was still congregated together, but now surrounded by a throng of men and women.
Though mostly women as the aura Lex carried with her still worked, and except for Ziva and Abby who were obviously only there for each other the other two had become the most noticeable souls out there.
At the point Tara and Tony were watching Faith and Lex were actually dancing together, and making enough of a display that Tony felt the need to look over at Tara and make sure the witch wasn't getting jealous.
Much to his surprise Tara looked more then a little aroused. She however noticed his scrutiny as well as his shock. Smiling at him she explained. "Tony, I trust Faith implicitly. I have no doubts, and," Tara pointed at Faith and Lex's dance. "THAT is sexy. Don't forget Tony... I HAVE seen all of Team Wet Dream naked."
He laughed, and sat back down. Tara swiveled her chair to face him just in time for him to start speaking. "You two really do have something special."
Tara sighed. "Oh Tony. I hate to see you pining for a bitch who doesn't deserve it."
The typically sweet and gentle woman's harsh words hit Tony just as he was taking a sip of his drink, and he coughed on it a before he was able to reply. "What?"
She looked at him sadly. "It shouldn't surprise you that I've ready your file. I've already everyone's file. It's part of my job. I know about all the jobs you did for Jenny Sheppard."
Tony looked down into his drink. "Then you know I seduced a totally innocent woman to take down her arms dealer father."
Tara paused, waiting until Tony looked up to meet her eyes. "No Tony, you got close to an innocent woman to taken down her arms dealer father. You then developed feelings for her. That said Tony I deliberately sent Lex to seduce Agent Krieger, which should make me at least as bad as Director Sheppard, probably a little worse."
She could see Tony getting ready to speak, possibly to defend her actions, or condemn his own, but Tara cut him off either way. "Tony, her doctorate was bought with bloodshed. While she was trying to save lives her father was facilitating them being lost by the thousands, and when she was finally confronted with that knowledge her response was to blame you."
He couldn't say much to that blunt statement as she continued. "Not just blame you Tony, but frame you for her father's murder. You lied to try to save all those lives her father was content to spill out to grease the gears of his chosen industry. She not only lied simply as part of the whole woman scorned bit, but was willing to let her father's real killer go free in order to get her scorn on."
It was obvious that didn't occur to him as Tara still continued on. "So I think 'bitch' seems an appropriate way to refer to her, but 'selfish bitch' seems even better."
DiNozzo seemed ready to reply, but was again cut off, this time by the return of Abby Sciuto. "She's totally right Tony."
Before he could even hope to reply Ziva followed her love in as the two women sat down in the VIP area. "While I must admit I did not think of any of Tara's points she made several good ones."
They would guess that Faith and Lex decided to follow their friends off the dance floor, but perhaps had a bit more of a crowd of disappointed onlookers to work through, as they were joining them slightly later.
Just in time for Faith to ask while leaning in to get a kiss from Tara. "What are we talking about?"
As she gave the kiss Tara replied. "Tony's ex."
Lex had already sat down. "That Jean chick right?" At their nods Lex kept going. "TOTALLY doable, but should come stamped with a drama warning. You know? Kind of like they put on cigarettes?"
That got several smiles, even from Tony, though his showed was suffering from some shock.
Tara leaned in and took Tony's right hand between her own. "I'm a gay woman Tony so I get that the heart wants, what the heart wants, but there are two people in every relationship, and while she might have been innocent when you two first met, after she learned the truth about her father she was full partner in the situation. The fact that she responded as she did is on her, not you."
Lex made a small clearing of her throat, Tara smirked, rolling her eyes. "Fine, two or more in every relationship."
When even Tony got a smile at Lex's interruption it was obvious it had been done just for that purpose, to break the tension.
As Buffy joined the group she however was still obviously tense. "So what are you guys talking about? The definition of 'top secret' perhaps?"
They all smiled in a confused fashion which just seemed to aggravate Buffy further. "Maybe we could have Ziva explain it. She could explain how our definition of 'tell nobody' becomes 'tell nobody, but family."
They were all still confused, but not amused anymore as Ziva responded. "Buffy I haven't spoken to my father since I left for my mission that put me on the Damocles."
Buffy scowled at the former Mossad officer. "Not your father! Your brother!"
Everyone was brought up short, and even Buffy deflated as she watched Ziva as she had never seen someone pale so quickly without a feeding vampire attached to their body.
Faith was the first to recover her wits, and she used them to give a wave to Gunn, Tim and Xander at the bar. The three men nodded and returned.
Slayer was then speaking to Buffy. "Where's Angel?"
Buffy's voice was much more subdued as she replied. "Looking for her brother, he disappeared after talking to me."
That got the attention of Tara, Ziva, Abby, and Tony, but Faith was the one to express it. "Tony, take Lex, find Angel. You see Ari and can waste his ass without any civilians in the crossfire then do so, but main thing is to get Angel back here safely."
That got Buffy's attention. "You mean the guy is dangerous?"
Tony's voice was the trained calm he got in dangerous situations. "He caused the one and only casualty on our team when we were at NCIS, and he did so just to get at Gibbs."
Only now realizing the danger Angel was in Buffy obviously wanted to join Tony and Lex, but Faith was shaking her head. "They'll find him. I need you to tell me exactly what happened."
Before she could do so however Abby had finished tapping into her smartphone and held it up.
"Was this the guy you saw?"
Before Buffy could answer Xander chimed in as he Tim and Gunn joined them. "Wow! That kind of looks like Dracula."
Buffy nodded almost absently. "Paler skin, longer hair, but yeah looks just like him."
Abby was then speaking. "Okay so Dracula really was a vampire. Problem is this guy is supposed to be dead too." Abby swiped her finger across the screen and it was then filled with the attached file listing the name Ari Haswari and in all capital letters DECEASED.
Buffy deflated. "Damn it!"
Faith however took command. "Buffy, what happened exactly?"
She let out a breath before complying with the order. "Angel and I were taking a break from dancing. At one point Angel was grabbing us drinks when a guy came up and asked me to dance. I tried to explain that I was there with my boyfriend, but he still managed to talk me out to the dance floor."
Ziva interrupted, her voice showing still showing signs of her shock, and even as she spoke Abby was pulling the Israeli woman to sit close to her to be comforted. "He could convince you of just about anything."
Summers had a distracted nod as she continued. "Once out the dance floor he said he thought he knew me. At first I thought it was a line, but then he said my full name 'Buffy... Buffy Summers'. That was when the alarms started going off. Before I could do anything however he said I worked with his sister. I tried to to say I didn't know what he was talking about but he had a mocking expression as he said he knew it was all hush, hush at the Lock, but he asked me to send his sister his regards."
Ziva's gaze shot up at that as Buffy finished her recounting. "I was ready to grab him at that point, but he slipped away and into the crowd. Angel got back and after a quick explanation he offered to find the guy while I came over here and found out what was up."
Tim and Abby were both rapidly tapping at their smartphones while Tara was talking into hers. Faith spoke to Gunn. "Call the drivers. Tell them to go over their vehicles with everything they've got to secure them. Then tell them to pull in front of the club for our hasty departure."
Faith then turned to Tim. "You know this guy by sight..."
"Well I mean I never actually saw him... in person..." Was stammered out in response by McGee.
Tony had arrived with Lex and Angel in time to beat Faith to reassuring the obviously worried agent. "No, but you did spend countless hours working on his image McGee. Don't worry, you see him, you'll recognize him."
DiNozzo got a smile and a nod that he gave right back to Faith as the woman resumed speaking to Tim. "Tim, I want you and what we've got of Scooby Squad as one team looking for Ari."
She then turned to Tony. "You and I will be the other."
Turning to Lex and Ziva Faith gave them their order. "You two are going to secure the fuck out of everything to make sure that he didn't leave any surprises, because even if he doesn't come after us directly we are in the middle of one giant soft target. Start with the VIP area. Then scour the rest of the club. Once you've double checked our rides out of here we book back home."
Gunn cut in. "I can have security help. They've puzzled out that we're something military. I tell them we have an unconfirmed threat, and we need to make a check without causing a panic... gets us extra eyes."
Slayer considered it a moment, and then nodded. "Make sure they know not to touch ANYTHING they have any suspicions of." Gunn didn't bother agreeing, and just got back on his phone to carry out her order.
Turning to Witch Woman the blondes blue eyes were regarding her calmly. "Gunn, Abby, and myself hole up here where it's as safe as we can make it and get in touch with the Lock to get them starting the search there... already done Darling."
Slayer rewarded her woman with a kiss that had their lips pressed together for several seconds while Faith had a gentle hand on the back of Tara's head. "Love you."
Witch Woman whispered the words back as the kiss broke. "Love you too."
Abby and Ziva and Buffy and Angel took similar moments before moving to their assignments.
Tony put on a grin and looked to McGee. "Don't get your hopes up Probie. I haven't had that much to drink."
McGee shot right back. "You might want to use another nick name when trying for the homo humor Tony."
Which actually got him an appreciative nod from the senior agent as they started breaking into their assigned groups.
It would be inaccurate to say that their searches quickly turned up nothing because their searches were anything but quick. Quick was not their ally here, it was Ari's and they were anything but as they made sure they were secure, and their enemy was long gone.
Though it might not have been a pleasant revelation it was hardly a surprising one, and once they were back in the limos they made all due haste back to the Lock. There was some argument when Gunn asked to be let out, but with Ari knowing the who's of the Lock at the very least they admitted that his safety with them would be relative to Ari's plans for them.
On his own he could pick any one of his safe houses and hole up while all the while using his contacts to track their new (old) foe.
The idea that they might not be as safe at the Lock as they usually felt was obviously telling as they got back and Faith ordered all guards in areas where they can't be viewed by the public start carrying heavier weapons while those who could be seen were ordered to have them close at hand.
The order was being complied with as they entered the control room to find it even busier then usual with Willow in her typical place at the eye of the storm, but over Oracle's shoulder was Leroy Jethro Gibbs, his eyes their own storm of silent rage as he looked up at the immense main screen.
On it there was a video capture from what was obviously a security camera, it's time/date stamp putting it toady at about the time Buffy would have seen Ari.
In it Ari walks up to the camera, smirks, raises his fingers in a gun fashion and mimes shooting the camera before walking away with a grin still on his face, and while the time/state stamp may have made it recorded a few short hours ago it was an old image.
It was the image that they had captured of Ari so long, long ago. It was the image they had used to chase him before they even had a name. It was, even more then the knowledge he had displayed to Buffy proof.
Proof that Ari Haswari was back.
While Gibbs eyes were raging, and his face was reddened his voice was calm as he turned to his niece upon her arrival. "While things aren't always what they seem I'm working from the idea that this IS Haswari. That makes the first question did he manage to climb out of Hell himself? Or did he have help?"
Tara was actually proud of her Uncle. While it had been nearly a year since they had first watched her dust a vampire in the NCIS autopsy bay he had made the adjustment better then she thought the skeptic he was renown as would have. Still, if you strip way the mystic elements there was a definite comparison to a jailbreak, it was how he seemed to be approaching it, and that was where she started.
"Even if he would have gotten himself out of Hell he would have still have had some sort of assistance. When emerging from Hell he would have just been a disembodied spirit. The fact that he not only has flesh, but flesh that is from all signs identical to his original body not only points to help, but powerful help. Powerful help that likely wanted him to be recognizable to us."
As everyone mulled over that point Buffy spoke up in a small voice. "We'll want to check his grave. See if it IS his old body, and they restored it like mine."
Ziva's voice was almost as muted as Buffy's. "I can confirm personally delivering his body to Israel and seeing it interred."
While Buffy and Ziva were understandably pale, as the conversation continued anyone who looked at Oracle as she typed away at her keyboard would see a similar pallor quickly consuming the redhead's features.
Angel however was understandably focused on Buffy when he put his hand on her shoulder. "How are you doing?"
Buffy forced a smile for her boyfriend. "Not well, but we're all rattled at the moment."
Seeing the conversation starting to stall out Lex stepped up and took the floor. "Resurrection 101!" Her words had the desired effect as everyone regained their focus and turned it on her. "One of the earliest lessons in magick is that nothing is ever free. All magick does is give you a wider range of options."
"Now when bringing back the dead to full life, rather then simple animation of dead tissue like with zombies, you are essentially performing a one-two punch of spells. You're just doing it so close together it seems like one. It depends on which res formula you are using which is done first, but it's really academic since they are both essential."
While everyone was obviously interested Buffy had taken a deep enough interest that Giles shared a look with Angel, and as Angel nodded he moved even closer to Buffy. Lex on the other hand noticed that while Willow had been recoiling a change occurred and while Willow's spine stiffened in resignation, Lex would have sworn Willow's expression showed genuine regret.
She however let none of it impact her continuing presentation. "The first is bringing back the spirit, because without an animating force the best you can hope is that autonomic functions catch on, but then all you've got is a body in a persistent vegetative state."
"Now this can be done several ways. If you have something linked to the one you are resurrecting, like say their mortal remains, you can pull their spirit back fairly easy. If you don't have anything linking to your subject you can still bring them back, but you are going to be talking several degrees more powerful of a casting. A cribbed version of that, is that in cases like Haswari you can summon a demon and order it to drag the desired soul out of Hell and bring it to you."
Tony was still obviously stunned at the return of his team's old enemy, but still had his sense of humor. "What? So Hell has a work release program?"
While his attempt at humor didn't break the tension in the room it lightened it, and Lex actually managed a small grin as she replied. "More to say it's like arranging a jailbreak with a the help of a friendly guard."
Lex paused, licking her lips and taking a breath. She looked over at Willow again, and the women's eyes met. To her growing shock Lex saw Willow nod, giving her permission to air what was probably the red head's deepest and darkest. Feeling released she resumed speaking.
"The second is the vessel for the returning spirit. This is where you truly run into the nothing is free, not even in magick. I read up on when they brought back Darla, and from what I gather in that case they destroyed several vamps to create a new body for her because her old one was dusted when Angel staked her..."
Willow hit a few keys on her console and then stood up. Her voice was quiet, but steady. "If it's okay Lex I will take it from here and you can just fill in anything I miss?"
The dark witch nodded and stepped back. "Okay Oracle."
Willow took a deep breath, and released it, another, and even a third. With that breath she met Buffy's eyes and seemed to hope her eyes could convey the regret words would fail to. It wasn't certain if she succeeded, but Buffy's expression showed she was effected as what was as much a confession as it was a briefing started.
"When I brought Buffy back I knew I would need a fresh source of life energy to restore the energies that were no longer present in Buffy's remains."
There were several small interruptions as Tara's eyes widened. Not as versed in black magick as Lex it apparently wasn't until now she realized what the resurrection would have required. Though Faith wasn't truly versed in any magick she was well versed in Tara Maclay and moved behind her lover to rest her hands on Tara's shoulders. Something the blond showed her appreciation of as she leaned her head to the rest to rest her cheek to Faith's right hand.
"While the Urn of Osiris allowed each of us to contribute some of our life energies to bring Buffy back it wasn't enough. Nothing is free, not even in magick, and to make a life I had to take a life."
It then clicked for Buffy and her eyes were starting to tear as she met her friends. "Willow?"
Unnoticed to the side Lex seemed to have picked up a new detail as she silently mouthed the word "Osiris" to herself.
"I used a faun, by using a sacrifice as young as I did I was able to capture a full measure of life."
Xander interrupted. "That wine stuff?"
Willow met his eyes in turn. "Was blood Xander, the faun's lifeblood."
Willow then looked down guiltily, before she resigned herself anew and looked up. "Even then it should not have been enough. It was only after Lex confronted me about it that I did more research and learned that the Urn of Osiris gave a significant return on the investment that allowed the energy to be enough."
She then met Buffy's eyes again. "Sorry would be just another insult Buffy. I hope you don't hate me, but I couldn't blame you if you did."
Oracle then looked to the entire room. "But that's about all I know on the topic." She then sat down.
Silence reigned for several moments before Lex stepped forward once more. "Okay. While they could have done some aftermarket stuff to Ari after bringing him back he would have first come back human." She then looked to Buffy. "Did he seem human?"
Buffy seemed happy for something else to think about. "Didn't trip any of my senses."
Lex nodded a couple of times. "When you bring someone back you bring them back as their 'base' self so to speak. It's why Darla came back as a human."
Buffy interrupted. "I was still a slayer when I came back. I mean I was slaying less then an hour after digging my way out."
Tara had found her voice again at that point. "Slaying is your birthright Buffy. It is who you are. Just like you didn't loose your powers when you drowned and Kendra was called. Darla being turned into a vampire was a 'aftermarket' modification. You 'rolled off the line' a slayer."
The blonde slayer nodded while biting her bottom lip.
Faith leaned in and placed a quick kiss on Tara's right ear before stepping forward to address her people. "All right! Everyone listen up! We might not know who these fuckers are at the moment, but they wanted us to know they know who we are. Fine! There is an old expression that says when you go hunting tigers be careful, you just might catch one. We're going to teach them just what that expression means!"
Tara smiled, and so did several others as Faith demonstrated the ability to boost morale and motivate her people that made them HER people more then any ranking chart.
"While they've given us a easily followable lead in this Haswari that also means that traps are inevitable, but all traps cut both ways, and you can't bait them without offering up something your prey wants. You will not just be fierce predators, you will be cunning ones. You will snatch that bait out of the trap and then you will lure your hunters into traps of your own."
"I don't even need to order this. I didn't pick you to be here to follow my orders. I picked you to be here because I knew you would be just as fierce as I am, just as cunning as I am, and just as determined to use those qualities to make those evil bastards regret every decision they ever made that led them to us!"
"NOW! We've been challenged! We've been called out! I'm going out there to answer them!"
She just looked at them expectantly. Gibbs got it and stepped forward. "HOOH RAH!"
His niece was grinning as she echoed him. "HOOH RAH!"
Soon the rest of the room echoed in "HOOH RAH!"s.
Team Wet Dream was in the Lock's private jet on their way to Israel sitting the luxury aircraft's lounge area. They were no longer in their club wear, but still had more muted, casual, versions.
Ziva was still in khakis and looking mill-spec, but her olive shirt was short sleeved. Faith was still in black leathers and black leather boots, but was now in a white sleeveless shirt. Lex had made the greatest change after Ziva told her how an all black outfit would respond in the middle eastern sun, and she had opted for blue jeans, white button up top, and brown boots.
In there Faith was lounging as she interrupted Ziva, obviously finishing the woman's sentence for her in a mocking fashion. "You do not like this."
Lex was assisting Faith as she retook her seat. "You do not agree with this."
What Ziva didn't not like or agree with agreed with Faith and Lex as Abby helped them mock her girlfriend. "You feel that Abby is not prepared for and should not be exposed to the dangers of field work."
Abby was still Abby, but was back to Goth Lite, and took her girlfriend's advice that white was better in black if she was going to spend much time in the sun... a preparation that had also included her black lace parasol.
Ziva deflated, and sunk back in her seat, looking imploringly to Abby she spoke. "Abigail, you are a beautiful, intelligent, capable woman..."
Lex interrupted, stage whispering to Abby. "Now she's just kissing your ass."
Abby smirked right back at the witch with an overly done arrogant demeanor. "I've got a very kissable ass. Why do you think I wear such short skirts?"
David gave both the grinning women a dark scowl, which just correspondingly brightened their grins. "But you are not a field agent."
Abby leaned forward and planted a kiss on Ziva's lips. Which Ziva didn't protest, but wasn't at all mollified by as Abby spoke. "Well I'm here babe, and Faith totally strikes me as a 'Once this plane is in flight we're not stopping kind of lady."
Faith's dimples were in full evidence as she grinned in reply to Abby's words, but they vanished as she softened her tone for Ziva. "Look, she's your girl. I of all people get that, but she is also my asset, and the best possible asset for our needs right now. Our only tangible lead is Ari."
Ziva interrupted. "An extremely dangerous lead even before dying and coming back from Hell."
Faith ignored her. "Our only tangible lead is Ari, AND with him obviously aware of us time is of the essence. The only physical evidence we know of will be his remains and we need to be ready to analyze them as soon as they are in our hands."
The counter Ziva gave was instant. "Then we should have brought Ducky."
Lex had a smirk that was perhaps a little TOO happy to be teasing her teammate. "Ducky's not a field agent either."
Again Ziva's counter was instant. "He has military experience!"
Faith was obviously forcing herself not to laugh at the banter between the pair. "The problem with that is it's distinctly possible that his remains are up and walking around. If they are then it's a matter of analyzing what we find at the site of his burial. If they are still there then it's a matter of analyzing the body to see if anything has been done to it, and Abby's great at that."
She frowned as she finished the thought more succinctly. "If his body is still dead then the cause of death hasn't changed."
Who had delivered the kill shot to Ziva's brother had stopped being much of a secret before they left NCIS, and if there had been any life left to the secret it was killed off before they left on this mission. So Ziva's darkening expression had an obvious source, so Abby tried to change the subject.
"Besides, we've been going down to the range. We got me comfortable on Lex's gun. I can take care of myself."
The subject changed, but by the widening of Ziva's eyes it was obviously not a pleasant change.
"That was self-defense training and nothing more! You are NOT ready for field work! You are not going to be the next Witch Woman!"
The source of Ziva's worry became more obvious with that statement and Abby gentled her voice, leaning to take hold of Ziva's hands in her own. "And I don't plan to be. I mean come on. I've got Team Wet Dream protecting me. I'm probably as safe as I am down in my lab when you are in the field."
Lex now realized why her teammate was freaking out and was trying to make it better, with humor. "If it helps I will share a bed with the both of you to make sure Abby is safe."
Ziva found a small smirk. "From everyone but you I presume."
Faith had been noticeably silent, and Ziva looked over. "Nothing to add?"
In response Faith bit her bottom lip. "Well it started as just self-defense with Tara too." Seeing all three give her varying glares Faith quickly changed the subject.
"When we're on the ground I think we should head straight to Mossad headquarters and meet with your Dad face to face."
Seeing Ziva wasn't exactly enthusiastic about the idea Faith hurried on.
"The odds of us operating in Israel with you as part of our team and NOT being noticed are long. To examine the grave of his son/ your brother, and not be observed? It's going to happen so I would rather have it happen on our terms."
Ziva exhaled. "So what do you propose?"
"Right in the front door, right to his office where we tell him his daughter wants to see him."
Again Ziva's counter came almost instantly. "There is no guarantee he will be at his office."
That got a acknowledging nod out of Faith. "No, there isn't, but he's titled now. He won't be running around the middle East like he did back in his field days. There is also the fact that there's a decent chance we will be flagged right at the airport. In which case he will already know you are back in the homeland."
Abby then commented. "So he'll probably be expecting us."
Faith glanced over. "Decent chance. Our other alternative is to ask Oracle to hack his schedule, or call to let him know we are coming, and let him pick a meeting place."
Though Ziva's response to that was non-verbal her look of distaste at the notion came as quickly as her other replies.
Faith kept speaking as her eyes acknowledged Ziva's expression. "This way we will be going to an area that you are familiar with, and we can study plans of before touch down. A public area where he is going to be known and recognized by everyone on sight. Perhaps even more then that though there is the psychological aspect."
That got everyone's attention and Faith hunkered forward in her seat. "We're getting off this plane, and we're coming right at him. No mincing around, no bullshit, that's going to send a message."
Ziva was obviously interested. "Which is?"
"That even on his home turf hunting tigers is hunting tigers."
Words became action as the request was sent to the Lock for the "official" floor plans to the Mossad's headquarters. Plans that were then supplemented by Ziva's personal, if out of date, knowledge of the building.
Though Ziva made many, many frequent reminders that she was not to get involved in any way other then the processing and analysis of evidence Abby was included in their planning.
Something that covered a range of scenarios from a tearful Daddy David overjoyed to see his daughter again, a notion that got an audible scoff from the daughter in question, to having to shoot their way out of the building.
Something that Ziva called unlikely, but not impossible, mentioning her own need to attack a guard that had been posted on her back when she had been framed for the murder of two FBI agents.
So deep was their concentration that Apollo's voice coming over the intercom to announce their landing was a bit of a shock to the ladies, but they quickly got ready, and after Faith gave Apollo orders to rent a hangar near the fence and then send them a secured transmission of the exact location, they were off.
Their papers got them and their luggage through the airport security without hassle, but as they reached the car rental counter Ziva whispered.
"We're being watched."
Faith nodded. "Yours?"
Though Ziva now worked for Faith the obvious meaning was if he was Mossad or with some other group.
"Hard to be sure, but he's armed, and I would prefer to think that means he's officially sanctioned rather then the airport is simply that sloppy."
Lex was motioned forward to handle the arrangements, and Ziva gave Abby a similar signal to stay close to the dark witch as the other two stepped away.
"Keep an eye on him Ziva, we expected to get noticed and not just for the Wet Dream part of our profile. He simply tails then all he'll see is us heading to Mossad headquarters. He picks up friends... he picks up friends and we deal with it as it comes."
Gibbs was following Willow back from the library to the control room when the young woman stopped right in the middle of the vacant hall.
The hall wasn't necessarily vacant, but they were the only ones standing still as Willow turned to face him and started speaking. "Abby says you're real good to talk to about stuff right?"
Gibbs took a sip of his coffee.
"I figure maybe I should talk to you because if you were able to manage not to kill me even though you had all the reason in the world to kill me after what I did to Tara then you're probably the best to talk to since you know enough to know, without having been there to have that influencing your judgment."
Gibbs regarded her calmly, and took a sip of his coffee.
"Right, so Buffy. None of this is her fault because even back in the beginning Buffy kept trying to tell us 'Don't get involved.', 'Don't get involved.'. Xander and I kept saying we wanted to be involved, so she let us be involved. Then after all that time and all those battles she EARNS her right to no longer be involved, and what do I do I go out and shove a knife through that poor baby deer's throat all so I can MAKE her be involved again!"
They were still standing in the hallway, but Willow had started to pace in front of Gibbs, who continued to sip his coffee.
"I didn't tell the others about it because I didn't want to have it weighing on them. I mean it was just a deer, I've eaten venison, I've even eaten veal! Though I felt terrible about it afterwards."
After a brief moment where Willow seemed to revel in her veal-eating guilt she nodded to herself and continued. "But that wasn't anything compared to the secret Buffy was keeping." Willow paused, pinching the bridge of her nose to collect herself. "That I dragged her soul out of Heaven."
Seeing the conversation was going to go long, and was getting rather deep Gibbs pulled her off to the side to conference. "Did you know?"
A long inhale was followed by a long exhale, but Gibbs was impressed when she started speaking. That almost need to minimize the serious nature of her actions was gone. It had been his biggest concern after learning what had happened between Oracle and his niece, and while Gibbs was not known as a terribly forgiving man some of the tension he felt in the two operating in the same building lessened at her words.
"I didn't want to. I didn't consciously know that Buffy was in Heaven, but thinking she was in a Hell dimension gave me the excuse I needed to do what I did." She then paused, looking thoughtful. "Lex once said that the gypsy's were able to curse Angel with his soul... the first time, because the universe needed a vampire with a soul running around. I wonder if that's why I was able to bring Buffy back?"
Gibbs expression darkened several notches and Willow held her hands up. "I'm still guilty Gibbs, not just emotionally feeling guilt, but guilty in the sense I committed several sins to make it happen. No, what I mean is that when I cursed Angel with his soul, the second time, I started speaking in a tongue I didn't understand, and cast a curse WAY beyond what I should have. Now that I know a bit about Lex, the spell to bring Buffy back... Giles called me a rank arrogant amateur, and he was right to. I just mean... how is it I keep pulling off this stuff?"
She threw up her hands. "Oh, and then there's Lex! You probably heard about her giving me the once over!"
Gibbs arched a single silver brow, and took a sip of his coffee, and after a second Willow realized his silent question. She blushed deeply and mumbled. "When she yelled at me in the conference room, not the other thing on the roof."
Clearing her throat to get past the majority of her embarrassment Willow continued, but her voice grew mocking, obviously mocking herself. "In the conference room I pulled Lex in there to tell how I understood about dark magick, and how *I* could help *her* control it."
"I didn't control a damn thing Gibbs, I think deep down that was what I liked. Before then I had always been Willow, timid, geeky. Even before Buffy came to Sunnydale I hid behind Xander, or just hid in general."
"Then I found magic. Now you see before I thought the magick made me do it, but that's like someone saying the whiskey makes them violent. Maybe true, maybe not, but why do they keep drinking? I would have kept 'drinking', but Tara leaving... it not only did what was right for her, it did what was right for me."
Gibbs nodded solemnly, and sipped his coffee.
She wiped at an errant tear. "That's the first time I've been able to say that Gibbs, not just out loud, but at all."
Wiping another tear she cleared her throat again. "But it was something that Lex said, something about magic coming from the same source and going to the same source, and we were what made the difference that got me thinking."
She bit her lip, her expression showing she was staring blankly at the wall they were standing by, but looking inward. "What was it in ME that took me down that path? Tara leaving got me to stop what I was doing, but looking into those ANGRY jet black eyes of Lex made me actually take a look at what it was I was doing."
Gibbs had seen his teams witch get those eyes, and truth be told while it didn't "rattle" him exactly it had motivated him to sit down with Tara and learn more of what Lex was exactly.
You couldn't tell any of those things at the moment though as Gibbs calmly took another sip of his coffee.
"Ever since I was a kid I had always tried to get everyone's approval. Yeah, it started with my parents, but that's just about every kid with every parent, and sure mine weren't perfect, but I'm a grown woman and I can just learn from those lessons rather then continue to moan about them."
Gibbs hid a smile at those last words by taking another sip of coffee.
"Now however I know it wasn't approval I was looking for. I was looking for someone to need me."
She paused, bringing her green eyes to Gibbs blue. "And now we come to the Tara part of the conversation. While I'm sure she told you just about everything I'm also sure she softened it up a bit. Partially because that's just who Tara is, but also partly because that was how Tara was raised."
Realizing Willow was talking about Tara's father and brother he nodded. Victims of abuse quickly learn to minimize what happened to them, and to take some of the blame unto themselves, as a survival instinct if nothing else.
Keeping that gaze Willow's voice was solemn. "But this is on me. Tara was the best thing that ever happened to me, and while sometimes I fear she might have first been attracted to me because of some cycle of violence stuff SHE was an angel."
Gibbs shook his head. "She left that behind when she came to Sunnydale. She might not have been at her strongest, but she broke that cycle when she left her father's house."
It was obvious part of her wasn't sure, but a great part wanted, and even needed to believe Gibbs words. "Still, she was an angel to me, and I hid her. Yeah, okay, part of that was coming out of the closet fears, but even the most closeted girls can introduce someone as a 'friend'. I finally had someone who needed me, and I wanted to lock her away from the world."
There was a sigh before she continued. "That's why I feared she might have been repeating cycles with me because isn't that what abusers do? Still, I think you're right because as we loved each other she grew stronger, strong enough to confront me when I was going to far..."
Willow paused and met Gibbs eyes again. They weren't angry, but they were stern as he took another sip of his coffee, and Willow seemed grateful, she needed to say this to someone who knew the situation, but wouldn't just forgive her for the simple fact of being Willow Rosenberg, everyone's favorite brain.
"And my response to that was to strip away that power, the choice to confront me was just a a side-effect really. My Tara was now a woman, my partner, she now wanted rather then needed me, and that wouldn't do. Thankfully I failed, all I did was take away a memory, but maybe it's part of what you said too, that she had broken that cycle. I hurt her once and she forgave me, but when I hurt her a second time she left, and I thank every god and every goddess out there she did."
Again, her sincerity was have a telling effect on Gibbs as she resumed.
"She left, and she found someone, who ironically despite her past was never really an abuser... yeah tendencies towards violence, but even at her worst was more lashing out/cry for help kind of violence, and they are perfect for each other."
Anther eyebrow was raised and Willow actually smiled. "Oh don't get me wrong. For the longest time I was the President of the We Hate Faith Fan club, but at the heart of most of her problems she needed someone who would love her unconditionally... the kinda love Tara..." Willow's voice grew soft. "Radiates to those around her... but when she directs it..."
She paused, expecting more embarrassment when she met Gibbs eyes, but instead found understanding.
Coughing once Willow continued. "Say what you want about being the 'Founder' I think most of her power comes from simply knowing she's loved like she is."
"My punishment was loosing her, what should have been the most precious thing to me, and while I could try to say that it was obviously destined to happen but that does not excuse the choices I made that made it happen."
The red head's hair swirled around her head as she shook it. "But there is is all my sins laid bare. I mean the big ones, things like that thing I did to Cordelia's locker back in the sixth grade non-withstanding."
Gibbs got a small grin as he took another sip of coffee.
"And it kinda feels good. It's out there, good, bad, and ugly it's out there... I know both Faith and Angel are upfront about what they did... maybe this is part of that redemption stuff."
He wasn't given time to reply as the red head got a big smile. "Thanks Gibbs! Abby was totally right! You're great to talk to about this kinda stuff! We should probably be getting back to work now though."
He nodded draining his coffee cup. "Yeah, but I need a refill first."
Apollo was the Lock's flying ace, their top gun. He was not however their only pilot, but while some still made occasional unflattering comparisons to the 80's television character "Howling Mad" Murdoch no one disputed his EARNED rank.
It had not always been that way however, while Apollo was the first pilot exclusively on the Lock's payroll as Tara expanded her roster tensions started to develop, and rather then run herself ragged trying to soothe ruffled feathers she arranged what was on the books as "verification of abilities" but was actually her letting the pilots hash it out.
Sure, she learned that this pilot might be better with choppers, and that one could make a troop transport pull off maneuvers that would make the mechanical team weep at the stresses they would be fixing later, but the various skill tests let Apollo prove he was the better pilot across the board, and when he was the last man in the air after their mock dog fight those tensions eased.
That also meant that when teams were dispatched overseas Apollo was inevitably the man getting them there and home as the Lock couldn't support assets acting internationally as well as they could those acting stateside.
Scooby Squad however WAS acting stateside, so it was one of the reserve pilots they were leaving to secure the rented hangar.
Actually they were leaving one of the reserve pilots and two black suits as they were operating stateside in the old stomping grounds of Gibbs NCIS team, and even with the greater support the Lock could provide, the additional attention they would inevitably attract had them wanting to make their ride home extra secure.
With that being taken care of the four friends stepped out into the early light of day to find that their one time teammate Willow had fulfilled her role as Oracle and had already arranged for a black SUV to be waiting for them outside the hangar.
Their appearances were quite similar with all of them in dark suits, not quite off the rack like one would expect typical federal agents, but certainly in that anonymity of conformity that dominates Washington DC.
Though those suits concealed sidearms as one might find on countless other agents operating here in DC they also concealed a wide variety of other, more "job-specific" supplies, and the supplies that wouldn't fit under their suit coats were instead in the large aluminum weapon and equipment cases they had taken from the plane and were now bringing to the SUV.
There was a female rental agent waiting by the vehicle with keys in one hand and a clipboard in the other.
As Angel approached her the woman's plastic service industry smile grew several degrees warmer, because while he might be mortal now he was still the one "with the angelic face" and many women, as well as a fair number of men responded to it.
Whether Buffy's presence impacted his professionalism or not Angel quickly signed the rental agreement with his fake id, and said "thank you" in a way that made the woman frown in disappointment, but leave all the same.
He kept the keys as he opened the drivers side door and hit the release for the cargo area in back. It had become his role ever since he had joined Scooby Squad with Xander and Giles not liking to drive, and Buffy not being allowed to drive by the unanimous vote... of everyone at the Lock, it had fallen to Angel.
Sure the vehicles tended to not be as cool as his old convertible, but focusing on driving was as close as they usually let him get to brooding now that he was mortal again.
It almost looked like he might get another brood in as Xander stage whispered "tramp" to him, but Buffy's response of Gibbs slapping Xander put a smile on that angelic face instead.
So rather then brood he just helped them team to go over the rental vehicle for tracers, explosives, and any other unexpected surprises.
Finding none they call climbed in with Angel behind the wheel, Giles in the seat behind him, Buffy in the passenger side, and Xander sitting directly behind her.
It was Xander's voice that broke the silence that had started with his voice as well. "Is it just me or do you think they picked the worst possible people to deal with all the authority figures were going to be dealing with?"
The question was fair, but since it had been voiced in a typical Alexander Harris fashion it also got smiles from his teammates as Giles was the first to reply. "We certainly couldn't send Gibbs or any of his people."
While both Vance and Fornell had called off their investigations no one wanted to wave that carrot under the men's perpetually twitching noses.
Angel then showed his integration into the team as he spoke up. "And Faith is on her way to Israel."
Buffy followed up on her boyfriends thought seamlessly. "Faith and Gibbs would have to toss a coin to see who would get to kill you if you suggested Tara, and Riley's mostly out of it because he's hanging close to Witch Woman so she doesn't overstress herself."
Xander was nodding, mostly to himself. "So worst possible choice or not we're basically all there is?"
Buffy grinned. "Story of our life."
Sure they might now be a well trained, well funded, globe-trotting band of monster hunters at this point, but they had started as a band of misfits, and in many ways they would always be.
Their strategy had been planned on the way in. With their numbers having a eerie sort of parody to Gibbs team they had decided to go with it in hopes of creating a subconscious rapport.
Giles would be the older team leader, their "Gibbs".
Angel was his second in command, their "Tony".
Xander would be the younger male agent, or their "Tim".
While that left Buffy their "Ziva".
It seemed to work as Giles was taken up to Vance's office while Angel, Xander, and Buffy were left downstairs, with Courtney Krieger.
"So you guys work with Gibbs team now right?"
She got a series of blank stares in return.
"Right. So when they had just left, and we were all curious where they had went everyone did some looking, and I was contacted by a female agent. Was she one of yours?"
They didn't answer, but since that "contact" had led to the fight that had put Lex and Buffy on disciplinary details they all knew what happened, and while they didn't verbally answer her question the small smirks they were combating still answered Agent Krieger.
To which the FBI Agent blushed. "So I mean... is she okay? I mean it had been a while since I saw her, and I was just wondering..."
Angel, whether from a sense of compassion, or a deep desire to stop the woman's mooning over their comrade finally spoke. "Ma'am I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about, but I'm sure whomever you may be talking about is fine."
Getting the idea Courtney smiled. "Right! Okay!" Then Courtney's eyes seemed to click that she was pining to people who worked with the woman who had been sent to gay seduce her, and her previous blush was dwarfed by the crimson now on her cheeks. "Okay, so I'm going to grab some coffee. Did you guys want any?" Not waiting for an actual answer Agent Krieger all but ran from the three smirking souls.
Xander's smirk however was incredulous as he shook his head. "Unbelievable!" He actually broke the word into syllables as he spoke it.
He then started speaking normally, but his voice was still strained. "How? How does she do it? I mean my last date WAS hot..."
Buffy nodded. "Very hot."
Angel agreed. "Smokin."
Xander nodded right along with them. "Until we found out she was using me to try to get access to the Hellmouth, which she planned on using MY blood to open!"
Buffy was the one to reply to his rant. "To be fair though, Xander, Angel and my dating histories with anyone other then Angel and I haven't been too great either."
All three paused, seeming to consider that point before Xander went back on a tare. "Yeah, okay, but Lex! She's sent here to do a Girly Mata Hari... which is perhaps one of the coolest terms I've ever come up with... and the girl she Mata Hari's is sweet on her? There is no romantic justice in the world!"
Angel then spoke, as was becoming more his custom now that he had a pulse. "You've had to have heard what the women say, Xander. 'Once you go Lex, you never go back. You just learn to settle."
Upstairs Giles had his own problems and they were more serious as Vance was trying to question him. "So with your accent Mister Colubrine I'm guessing you are part of some international body?"
Giles however had been expecting as much. "That's Special Agent Colubrine, and the body I am with is the one you have been ordered to give your full cooperation to."
It was obvious Leon Vance didn't' like that answer, but before he could respond Fornell cut in.
"Look, with all due respect Director Vance everyone knows the reaming you got the last time you couldn't keep your curiosity in check. We've been given our orders and if you are intent on disobeying them I would at least ask you to do it AFTER I'm not here to get put on the hook along with you?"
Vance scowled, but settled back in his chair. Fornell continued, and Giles turned to focus his attention on the man. "Look, everyone is talking about this 'Returned Martyr' these days, and now you are here asking about Haswari's network? We didn't make the connection, but it's obvious you did."
Actually Giles knew nothing about this 'Returned Martyr' as his field of expertise was supernatural threats rather then international terrorism, but with Haswari's past the link was obvious. He just needed to think of a way to tie the two together without telling the two men Haswari was back from the grave.
He was saved from having to by a distraction. Unfortunately the distraction was the sound gunshots coming from inside the NCIS headquarters.
Abigail Sciuto was not ready for fieldwork. Standing in the headquarters for the Mossad, or more accurately one of the public faces the clandestine organization allowed to be identified as part of the Mossad Abby knew that she was not ready.
She would not however say as much. Not really because she was afraid of letting Ziva know she was right, and their relationship was better then that... most of the time.
No, she was staying silent because if Ziva knew that Abby was feeling as unprepared, and downright intimidated as she was she would insist they take Abby back to the hotel, if not have Apollo fly her back to the Lock right away.
That would lead to fighting with Faith, and that would not be okay on a normal mission.
When that mission involved the man who killed Kate back from the dead and enjoying life once more Abby would suck it up, put on her big girl panties, and hide behind Ziva and the rest of Team Wet Dream until there was evidence to process.
There was just something about the Mossad.
While Abby was used to dress codes (and ignoring them) it seemed like the Mossad had the word "scary" in front of everything. Like men should wear a Scary Suit and Scary Tie in order to carry off a Scary Professional Look.
Of course not everyone was in suit and tie, many where in military uniforms that resembled old pictures Ziva had shown her from her time in the IDF... Abby allowed herself a small naughty grin as she remembered the effect of seeing her lover in military uniform had had on her.
Others had casual looks that seemed most everyone Hebrew or not wore in the desert climate.
It wasn't so much what they were wearing as the way they were wearing it.
Still, when you hunt scary people for a living it's probably only natural to be scary yourself,but well the Lock hunted actual monsters rather then the human ones the Mossad tackled and they didn't become monsters.
Heck, even before joining the Lock they hunted human monsters, and they didn't get scary... yeah okay when Gibbs was angry, but they didn't get scary as a matter of course.
Abby remembered the old Nietzsche quote about those who would hunt monsters... Tara and Gibbs made sure not to become monsters, to not let their people become monsters. She wondered if that was the problem, that Eli David didn't seem to worry about his people becoming monsters.
Considering the one they were now hunting it had to be asked if perhaps he preferred them that way.
As she evaluated the man and the work environment he fostered the four women were ushered into his personal office, and while it was luxurious enough it lacked the personal touches that showed an actual person worked there.
She was sure he would argue that a lifetime in the field had taught him to not carry those little elements with him, and old habits were hard to break, but Abby knew better.
He was no longer in the field, he was a recognized face of Israel's intelligence service. He could have those touches, but he hadn't just "not carried" those little bits of humanity that every solider or spy carried ever since their ancient inceptions, he left them behind.
She knew all this because she knew his daughter. Even at her most fierce and isolated Ziva fought to keep those little touches like her love of cooking, a love that even back then she had been willing to share with her teammates at NCIS.
Eli David however shared nothing, and showed nothing.
Even now all he had was a slight look of surprise, and Abby found herself guessing that was probably feigned as it was more likely then not that he knew of their arrival before they left the airport.
Abby found herself wanting to growl. She might not be some super solider spy woman like the three she was traveling with, but she knew that his choice of words was deliberate. He was trying to put Ziva in her place, by addressing her as his daughter he was reminding her she was subordinate to him, but doing so in a fashion that if she say called him "Director" would make HER look petty.
However if Abby knew it then she knew Team Wet Dream knew it too and Faith was the one to reply. "Director David, thank you for meeting with us."
With the man obviously all too ready to exploit family ties for some sort of advantage in the situation Faith also made sure to quickly cut off that option. "Unfortunately we don't have time for a family reunion, because while it's a one of your children that brought us here, it's not Ziva."
"Ari." Was his one word reply, it wasn't a question.
Faith nodded. "We need access to his grave site."
There was a long pause as Faith sized up the man, and while Abby wasn't quite sure what was going on Ziva, and then Lex joined their leader in staring him down, until Faith spoke again. "And I'm guessing you know why."
At Eli David's nod Abby was stunned. Did the Mossad have occult resources? She had met the Lock's war wizard Solomon so she knew the Hebrew people had a proud mystic legacy. Was there a middle eastern version of the Lock running around?
As he replied she realized that the answer was no. Or at least if there was such a group they hadn't bothered to alert Eli David of their presence. "With all of this 'Returned Martyr' business starting up at the time Ari's grave was desecrated I covered up the event as not to give the fanatics any more fuel for their fires. How did you find out?"
He seemed genuinely curious, rather then out and out suspicious, but Faith wasn't interested in satisfying his curiosity. "We did. Now, Director David, we gave you our ids and clearances when we first arrived, and while you may want to do additional checks and all that bureaucratic crap we're here to work, and time is not our ally here. So if you want to give us an escort you can go for it, but I need you to let us start doing our jobs."
Eli met Faith's eyes. "What is that job exactly?"
While all three knew Faith was making an assumption as she spoke it was the assumption they reached as well. "To find this 'Returned Martyr' and send him back where he returned from."
He was the one to break their gaze, but as he did so he seem pleased by whatever he had seen in Faith's eyes. "Very well Special Agent Page I will accompany you to my sons grave personally, and I will authorize Miss Sciuto to test all physical evidence that had been gathered."
He got up and checked his side arm. It was one of the Mini-Eagles that Abby had tried before finding she liked the smaller frame of the Kahr that Lex used.
Not massive like the .44 Magnum Desert Eagle Ziva had leapt up to when advised to pick a caliber other then 9mm Abby hoped it was closer to the .45 caliber she Faith and Lex were all packing.
Though thinking about it she still couldn't be sure that if he drew his gun it wouldn't end up pointed at them, so perhaps a smaller caliber might not be so bad.
The weapon was stashed as the group made their way to the door.
Eli then spoke. "I can have a security detail escort Miss Sciuto to our forensics labs."
His daughter was the first to reply. "Abby will stay with us."
Faith added to the thought before Director David's brow could fully arch at his daughters words. "I'm sure your team was thorough, but I would like Abby with us in case they missed something."
The older David's brow still arched, but he seemed satisfied with the answer.
For her part the normally loquacious Lex was content to remain silent.
Abby braced herself as they approached the main doors. While she knew that they would be going from the air conditioned office to an air conditioned car the dry desert heat always hit her like a fist.
That wasn't even counting the glaring light of day.
She had already put on her sunglasses, as had everyone else in their little assembly. She had started to open her parasol up when Ziva's voice suddenly cut into her consciousness.
"ABBY GET DOWN!" Perhaps even more then the words the tone cut through all of Abby's thoughts and focused them on her lover's obvious panic.
The parasol was dropped and Abby quickly followed it to the ground. The impact with the hard pavement left her teeth rattling and stars in her eyes, but hearing the bullets now whistling overhead she was glad to be down there.
More of Ziva's defense lessons came to her, and Abby remembered her girl telling her. "Getting down is good, getting cover is better, getting cover behind something sturdy is best."
It was with that in mind that Abby elbow crawled to a low brick wall. It just sectioned off a small area for people who wanted to eat outside, but it was probably the sturdiest thing that was close enough for Abby to take the risk crawling to it.
Luckily it wasn't lunchtime so Abby was on her own back there, but after a seconds worth of thought she wasn't sure how happy she was to be alone in the middle of a firefight, and peeked out to try to find her friends.
She found Ziva first, and it was obvious her lover was battling the urge to run to Abby's side, but the incoming fire was already far too intense to allow the action.
Though in a more lighthearted moment it might have been asked if Ziva just wanted to run to her lover's side or if she also wanted to share cover with anyone other then her Father.
Either way Abby met Ziva's fearful eyes and her glare made it clear Ziva shouldn't risk getting shot getting to her.
Lex was the one Abby saw next, and she recognized the woman's expression. It was the one she had when she was getting ready to teleport, and the way she was looking said she would teleport to Abby's side. The problem was they were in the middle of a major metropolitan area with numerous witnesses, and teleportation was strictly forbidden in those circumstances.
Faith had her Mk. 23 out and firing, but her expression was fairly similar to Lex, because Slayer could do much, much more, but not with the numerous Mossad defenders now joining their weapons to the lethal chorus going on all around Abby's ears.
"OKAY! That's it! We're going public!"
Everyone in the control room looked over at Oracle's outburst, but it was Riley Finn who was the first to head over. With their mission still in it's early stages Sam and Ducky had both come to the control room to convince Tara to rest.
The words "by force" were used, but everyone knew the two doctors were joking.
Of course "joking" was a relative term when the rest of the room joined the doctors in urging Tara to get some rest. The woman's dedication was well known to her people, and they knew that once things started picking up Witch Woman would not rest, let alone sleep until their foe was vanquished and their teams confirmed back and safe.
On his way over Leroy Jethro Gibbs had joined him. With no one ready to put him or his team back on Vance's radar that avenue of investigation had to be left to Scooby Squad, and while a member of his team was on loan to Team Wet Dream the three women, plus their forensic scientist were skilled enough to cover just about any eventuality while small enough to stay maneuverable and difficult to detect.
Leaving Gibbs, DiNozzo, and McGee ready to deploy, with no where to deploy to. It was a situation that would have Gibbs tense normally, but with Haswari back he was obviously chomping at the bit.
The look in his eyes told Riley he was hoping whatever had set Oracle off could give him a starting point.
The two men met at Oracle's terminal and waited for her to explain, she was scowling as she did so. "Okay, have you guys heard of garbage in, garbage out? It's a computer concept."
For Gibbs just about everything a computer put out was garbage, McGee just sometimes turned it into a lead. Looking to the younger man who had looked up from the computer station he had been working on Tim saw the question in Gibbs eyes and just nodded it was a real concept.
Riley just waited as Willow continued.
"What it means is that a computer is only as good as the information that is put inside it. Like this..." She pointed both hands towards the information on her screen, but started to summarize it verbally.
"It turns out that intelligence networks everywhere are looking into a terrorist leader called... and I QUOTE 'The Returned Martyr'! They are looking into guy who maybe were imprisoned and either escaped or was traded back. They are looking into guys who were reported dead, but the reports were sketchy. They are looking into kids who are now old enough to take over for their terrorist daddies... they are looking into everything but terrorists coming back from the dead!"
Tony was also in the control room, and obviously as eager to get on Ari's trail as Gibbs. "Well Willow, while that could make an awesome spec script for Romero I know I wouldn't have thought of it back before I met you guys."
Willow slumped, her lips slipping into a slight pout. "Yes, but you might have thought 'Hey, I'm dealing with a people who have a strong spiritual belief system, and if they are claiming to have a leader back from the dead maybe I should do a little check into that sort of thing... from an academic stand point of course.' Because I can handle the heck out of academic! I've got my baby here programmed to flag those 'academic' queries right away."
She then paused, running a gentle hand over her computer. "Don't worry baby. Momma doesn't blame you. It's those damn skeptics who can't accept that even if they don't believe they share the world with those who do!"
Everyone else in the room shared a look before returning their attention to Willow. It was Gibbs however who actually spoke. "Don't you keep a personal eye out for this sort of thing?"
The normally shy, typically timid red head gave Gibbs a glare. "Of course I do! I am! All of my team do, but it's a REALLY big internet, and we're often left having to have programs help sift through most of what we find... I know you guys see some truly horrible things out in the field, but the stuff I've had to delete from the porn filters alone... ANYWAY! Like now we were focused a bit more on the drug trade wanting to make sure that Witches Powder really was gone. So any human eyes we might have thrown that way were looking at police reports for drug violence where people's heads were getting cut open."
Riley put a hand on Willow's shoulder, and she looked up at him as he spoke. "We get it Willow. We don't blame you."
She interrupted, her lips back to a semi-pout. "You don't?"
He smiled. "We don't. We know you have an incredibly difficult job that you do an amazing job at. Some times things will fall between the cracks."
She exhaled. "I blame me though. This Ari guy is REALLY bad news, and you guys count on me to see this stuff coming!"
Finn was ready to comfort her some more, but she interrupted before he could. "Oh! Oh! Look here! There's been chatter about the 'Returned Martyr' to lay siege to the 'Mouth of Hell' NOT Gates of, which is what people think of when they think of the entrance to hell, but MOUTH... which actually should have tripped a program..."
She started tapping at her keys, muttering to herself. "Why didn't it trip a program?"
Riley left her to it, and Gibbs followed him over to McGee where he told Tim. "Put together an information package for the teams in the field. Odds are this is going to be relevant."
McGee nodded. "Don't have to be an oracle to figure that one out."
That had Willow's head up and darting over to glare at all three men.
All three had a small grin at the glare, but once Tim looked back down to his computer to start putting the intel packet together Gibbs pulled Riley aside and started speaking.
"This isn't really that much of a problem. We knew he was back, we knew he was gunning for us. At least now we have an idea of his back up, and it won't hurt they are human."
Riley looked pensive as he replied. "That might have been the idea."
Gibbs looked on quietly, seeing the thought wasn't finished. "If he started putting together a band of monsters we would have detected him. Whether it would have been people missing to provide blood for vampires, more 'exotic' dietary requirements, or just the resources to house a decent sized group of monsters..."
Getting the idea Gibbs didn't so much interrupt as finish the thought. "But by keeping them human he kept them off our radar."
Riley nodded. "It's about all we can do to keep a lip on supernatural threats, human misery is just too big for us to even try to keep a handle on."
The senior solder shook his head. "Don't go down that road Finn. You were a soldier long before you ever learned monsters came in more then human form. You know as well as I that you stay as vigilant as you can, train as hard as you are able, and gather all the intel you can find, and things can still go wrong."
The veteran solider Riley Finn nodded and Gibbs continued. "We catch up and then we surpass, and then we do as Slayer put it and teach Ari and his psychotic flock the danger of hunting tigers."
Finn exhaled. "That said we've shown humans can be just as dangerous as any monster with the right gear. I'm going to have Willow cook up chatter that this 'Returned Martyr' is looking for high profile soft targets on the west coast, and unfortunately I'm going to have to have our security start racial profiling, looking for Middle Eastern men in their twenties to thirties."
Gibbs was looking pensive himself. "You could take it another route as well. Have any war wizards or witches of Middle Eastern or African dissent start attending services at surrounding Mosques and looking for anything magickal. While Ari hasn't shown any signs of magick other then being alive our rituals using Ziva's blood as a ritual link have been coming up blank. So he has to have some sort of resources to mask him."
Tony had been off to the side, and at this point joined the conversation. "We can also use the tried and true methods of tracking terrorist cells Boss. I mean we've done a lot more with a lot less then what we have on Ari right now."
He nodded at his second. "Once McGee has the intel off you two get on that."
Riley looked over to Oracle. "Willow?" When she looked up he continued. "Get Tony a channel open to Bear at the Farm."
She nodded as Finn frowned. "I should have thought of that as soon as she showed us the file."
That got a head shake from Gibbs. "You did. We've got a lead Finn. Now we trace it right back to the bastard."
Faith didn't even have to think as she drilled a pair of .45 rounds through the temple of another terrorist. With her reflexes it was an action her body could carry out on autopilot.
No her mind was more occupied with all the other things her body COULD do if there wasn't all the damn witnesses.
It was bad enough that her life was in danger, but with Ziva, Lex, and most importantly the SCIENTIST Abby all in the line of fire Faith's instincts were SCREAMING to be let off the leash.
They were telling her that she could take the dozen odd attackers that were still on their feet and firing. That she could take them and would have barely a scratch on her. Not only would she have barely a scratch on her, but her friends, and the numerous civilians strewn around this battlefield would be safe!
The problem was that her logical mind was playing the cold bitch and reminding her that someone who could wipe out a dozen terrorists with nary a scratch on them would attract all kinds of attention, and if she was lucky it would be the official kind.
It would be just as likely that Eli David would order his people to point their guns at Team Wet Dream so they could be escorted to the nearest lab where Faith, and likely everyone else, would be cut up to find out how Faith managed to do what her slayer instincts were BEGGING to do.
The snarl on her lips grew as she wondered it that was part of Ari's plan. While the Lock's supernaturally capable resources weren't their only edge they were a noticeable one, a edge that Haswari blunted by keeping witnesses around to keep them from using those advantages.
Still... the Watcher's Council had made B go through a test to see if she could think tactically, that Cruciamentum thing, and while the way they did it was a good example of why the Lock was able to replace them Faith drilled similar concepts into her girls from day one.
Relying too much on your powers turns them into weaknesses.
Her tactical mind seemed to finally get a leash on her instincts and she was able to start making a better analysis of the situation.
Latching onto the car she was crouched behind she thought of Tony and Tim's rolling rocket back during the Witches Powder case.
The fact that she was hunkered down by the engine block had return fire already pop the front two tires, but Faith wouldn't need it to go TOO far, or TOO fast for what she was planning.
Her gun hand flew up and used her pistol to smash the car window.
The fact that her blow took the reinforced glass with a single blow, and her hand came away without a single cut probably skated the edge of humanly possible, but was close enough that Faith didn't worry about it.
Instead she opened the door, her pistol stowed and her combat knife in hand and attacking the steering column.
While she knew she had the vehicle hot wired in the sixty seconds or less of car theft fame with bullets whistling over head and slamming into the vehicles frame it felt closer to sixty minutes, but when the engine came to life her heart gave a surge.
Her knife stowed once more and her pistol back in hand she put that hand holding down both the gas and break to the floor. With her other hand she turned the steering wheel as hard as possible towards the main largest group of terrorists firing upon them.
Diving back the vehicle shot off, first turning in the direction Faith had cranked the wheel and then running straight as the wheels righted themselves.
Of course with the front two wheels shot out the race horse that seemed to surge out of the gate when Faith jumped away quickly developed a drunken sort of gait, but even if the vehicle was swerving as it moved Faith's cover was up and moving, and she was moving with it.
In a half crouch she was firing as she advanced, and while she couldn't put her full slayer reflexes to use shots that would have been primarily to force terrorists to cover was shoving them into their graves.
As she advanced she first picked up at least one shooter aiding her advance by focusing their fire on the Jihadist gunners, and from the angle Faith knew it was Ziva.
She had enough time to wonder where Lex was before she smelled the use of magick, and then an instant later had a second gunner shooting like Ziva, but from an angle that said Lex had used the distraction to teleport herself to Abby.
It was another moment that would have been an instant to others, but felt like an exposed eternity to Faith and her enhanced reflexes before the rest of the Israeli gunners first helped Faith's advance, and then started to sweep the sides of the enemy emplacements.
Her advance stopped with the car, and again Faith functioned at the very edge of the human envelope as she dove, rolled over the hood of the car to find herself face to face with one of the terrorist shooters.
Faith dodged to the side as he tried to bring up his cut down AK-47. Sliding behind him she put her Mk 23 pistol to her left hand and wrapped her left arm around his throat. Her right actually laid itself over the rifle's pistol grip, feeling bones crush as she tightened her old.
The pistol in her left was roaring in her own ears as it fired targets in it's arc of fire as she forced the rifle to point and shoot at targets in front of her.
Faith's human shield gave her several seconds of no return fire before the man's compatriot's seemed to decide that their bullets would earn him his trip to Paradise just as well as an Israeli's and soon she felt her shield shaking with the impacts, but by then their numbers had dropped far enough that it was too little and too late.
The firefight ended like they always seem to, with a sudden silence. Of course with Faith's senses she knew it was anything but sudden as a good seven seconds passed since a single round was fired by the terrorists, but in the heat of battle and the rush of adrenaline anyone without a slayer's senses usually figures a firing weapon is firing at them, and they understandably focus on returning fire.
Dropping the man's body she saw he still had a spark of life as he managed some last words.
"He has returned and so shall I!"
"Then I'll kill you a second time." Seeing his words had taken up what was left of his life Faith turned from him and back to her friends only to find commotion by Director David and his daughter. It looked like a pair of IDF solders was trying to escort the Director away, but Ziva wasn't letting them.
Slayer might not be sure what was going on, but she trusted her people, and if Spy Queen didn't want them to take the Director then the Director wasn't going anywhere.
As she got closer she saw Lex keeping Abby back.
Once she was there she heard Spy Queens voice raised and speaking in Hebrew. She witched back to English as Slayer arrived. "The building is more secure and we will take him inside!"
The IDF solder on the right disagreed. "If the building was secure then it would not have come under attack! We shall take the Director to a secure location!"
Ziva growled in reply. "The BUILDING was not attacked, we were attacked on the street outside, the building is perfectly secure!"
The argument seemed ready to continue, so Faith simply walked up and started shoving the Director towards the Mossad building. The soldiers immediately started protesting, one literally stepping in the way.
In response Slayer drew her pistol and pointed it in the man's face. "You are keeping your Director out in the open right after a terrorist attack. We can argue it inside."
The soldier's response was instant. "We will NOT!"
Her eyes narrowed, but they also caught something to the side, the other solider was drawing his pistol. Faith turned and pointed her weapon at him, which caused the first to try to go for his gun, but Ziva was faster and had him staring down the fairly large barrel of a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle.
The Director's voice was calm. "I believe I shall follow my associates suggestion and go inside, and you gentlemen will join us so we can verify you are who you say you are."
Xander ducked back behind the large desk that used to belong to Leroy Jethro Gibbs, it was pockmarked with a fresh line of bullet holes. "We HAVE to stop teaming up like this!"
Angel agreed, even as he popped up to return fire at the man who had shot at Xander. "I don't like it either, but I've found I kinda like having a pulse!"
As Angel dropped back down Xander was reloading his pistol, and had to admit Angel had a point. "Yeah, the novelty of mine hasn't worn off yet either."
In many ways the attack on the NCIS building had started failing in it's initial stages with the Marines outside obliterating the majority of the attacking force on the grounds outside.
The problem was they got the majority, rather then the entirety and enough gunmen had gotten inside the building to start either fortifying positions or attacking the fortified positions of the NCIS agents inside.
Things weren't going much better for Scooby Squad either. Giles was still presumably upstairs with FBI Special Agent Fornell and NCIS Director Leon Vance, while Buffy had wandered off in the direction Special Agent Krieger had left in to get coffee of her own.
Leaving Xander and Angel to watch each others backs when the attackers reached the NCIS squad room, but despite the pairs obvious antagonism they had been putting it aside for years in the face of mutual threats, and were doing the same here.
As Xander chambered a fresh round he got a half-formed snarl of his face. "There is something however I'm less attached to."
As Xander popped out and fired a couple rounds Angel asked. "What's that?"
"Holding tight and waiting for Buffy to come and save me."
The two men were ducked down behind the desk at that point, and they shared a look, a silent communication that said everything that needed to be said. Not just the decision to do what they were about to do, but an unspoken knowledge of what they were about to do.
Xander hurdled out from behind the desk towards the cover provided by the desk that used to belong to Anthony DiNozzo. A move that would have left him entirely exposed it Angel hadn't popped up at the same time and drilled three rounds into the face and neck of one shooter, and another two into the gunman standing next to him.
Reaching the desk Xander literally sat down, bringing his gun up and firing behind Angel. While he fired half a dozen rounds into the single terrorist they were all in the very center of the man's chest, and a bloody froth was expelled from the dead man's lips as he dropped.
Angel was still shooting, and had turned like a turret to fire in the same direction as Xander, but at an angle as another gunner who was hiding behind a filing cabinet, only exposing his face, to aim a M-16 Angel guessed he had taken from a fallen guard.
It took an extra heartbeat worth of aim, but the triple shot Angel fired blasted the top of the man's skull towards the ceiling, the rifle unfired.
Again Xander was firing behind Angel, now on one knee, his clip starting to run low he fired a double tap to each of of the hearts of another pair of Jihadist attackers.
Knowing his weapon was near empty Xander holstered it on reflex and dived for a fallen M-16. His forearm landed in the rapidly pooling blood of the one who had first stolen the weapon from one of the Marine's stationed at NCIS, but Xander ignored it.
Coming up he pivoted to bring the stairs under fire. The majority of the attackers had seemed intent on the Director's office, they were grouped so close together that marksmanship almost become a non-issue as Xander just had to try to keep his weapon pointed at the more lethal head and shoulder height as he walked it from human shape to human shape.
The lessened need for precision allowed him to regain his feet as he put a foot deliberately down on the rifle carried by the other man who had received a double tap to the heart and kicked it back, hard, in Angel's direction.
An action that was soon followed by the sounds of Angel picking up the rifle and adding it's fire to Xander's.
A good thing it turned out to be, because Xander was soon hitting the magazine release to drop the now empty mag from the M-16.
At the same time he was kneeling to grab the obvious mags bulging in the pockets of the now dead men.
He fished out three, shoving two into his pockets while shoving another at Angel who had been forced to single shots to keep the attackers trying to break into the Directors office from exposing themselves to shoot at the two men of Scooby Squad.
Xander soon had his weapon refreshed, but kept up the single shots to keep the enemy either cowering, or killed, like one would be martyr with more bravery then sense.
With both weapons now near full they knew they needed to break the mini-siege of the director's office.
Harris was ready to charge, but Angel got a grin. He grabbed the remote for the now shot up plasma screen and shouted. "GRENDADE!" Before throwing it at the clutch of remaining terrorists.
They saw a small roundish object hurtling towards them, and didn't take, or really have the time to analyze it too carefully. So they simply reacted and hurtled away from the offending projectile, some even leaping over the railing down to the floor far below.
Now utterly exposed and entirely flat foot the the Jihadist questions of what TRULY awaited them in death were finally answered courtesy of Angel and Xander's rifles.
Some where on the ground moaning from bones broken in the fall, they got mercy rounds as the pair charged up the stairs.
To their horror when they reached the top of the stairs the door to the Directors office had been broken down, apparently there was a last ditch effort as the Scooby Soldiers broke their siege and it had been successful.
They heard the words. "He has returned and so shall I!"
Then they heard the familiar voice of Rupert Giles, "I'll see you then." and a single gun shot.
Running to the room they had their weapons up and covering Giles, Fornell and Leon Vance, who had their own side arms up and doing the same.
On the floor a single man had made it into the office, and had been dispatched with a single shot between the eyes from Giles Browning pistol.
As their pulses started to return more to normal Xander was grinning like an idiot.
Though the look on Giles face said he knew he probably regret doing so he decided to comment. "Yes?"
Xander's grin totally grew. "You were TOTALLY an action hero just now!" He mimicked Giles accent. "I'll see you then." His voice then returned to it's excited tone. "Connery himself couldn't have done it better!"
Despite himself Giles smiled at that.
Back on the main floor of the squad room there was a disturbance. Xander and Angel were out first, their rifles up and ready to deal with whatever problem that might manifest. Giles and his Browning barely half a step behind.
There they found Scooby One, Buffy Summers, the leader of their unit arriving with both FBI Special Agent Courtney Krieger and a good half dozen rifle wielding Marines.
She took in all the bodies, the fact that her people weren't amongst them, but instead were the ones still standing with obviously appropriated rifles in hand and she nodded once.
Xander had his rifle now held to his shoulder, secure, but casual as he jerked a thumb over his shoulder. " Colubrine here need a martini shaken, not stirred, but otherwise were fine."
That got Xander the scowl from Giles the young man was more familiar with, but when even Angel was able to smile at Xander's antics Xander was able to smile that much more.
For her part Buffy wasn't sure exactly what was going on, but was able to smile that everyone was not only all right, but in the condition to crack jokes as Scooby Squad was perhaps even more famous for than their combat ability.
An alarm sounded in the control room, the Temple of the Oracle, and in response Oracle's normally fast typing jumped several notches higher in speed.
"We've got unauthorized explosives on site!"
Gibbs didn't quite understand how the spell worked, but somehow it was able to distinguish between the countless explosives the Lock had on hand and those brought in by unknown parties.
The way it had been explained to him was that the large amount of explosives actually helped because it let the spell know what to look out for, while simply having to distinguish if it had been "marked" by the Lock's magickal staff.
Shannon would have explained it as like effects like, Gibbs was just glad he was one of the armed investigators rather then a war wizard.
He just focused on Oracle and waited for her to say more. He was treated to a view of her showing that she is the head of cybernetic AND occult resources as she laid her hand flat on a clear panel on her terminal.
The panel started to glow, but it was even money if the glow was coming from the panel or her hand.
Suddenly on screen there was an image that was sickeningly familiar to the veteran agent. A lone male, approximately twenty to thirty, of middle eastern distraction in clothes that were both inappropriate for the California climate as well as appearing bulkier then the man's build would indicate.
He never put much stock in racial profiling. It was lazy police work that seemed only fit to catch bottom feeders and harass innocent citizens used more to boost arrest numbers then fight real crime.
He also knew however that there was profound difference between some Highway Patrolman pulling someone over for driving while black and when one is actually being hunted by a Islamic fundamentalist group when you at least know for sure the leader is of Middle Eastern decent at a point when your sensors are indicating what looks like an imminent attack.
Pointing at the screen Gibbs felt the need to make sure they noticed another point. "You can't see his hands. He may have a dead man's trigger."
Riley nodded as he put on a head set. "Stop him. If he takes even one more step towards the armory drop him."
They watched on screen as the man was confronted from a safe distance and his response was to lift a leg to run. He never got to put it back down before several shots to the head turned everything above his ears to mush and mist.
The rest of him had a similar fate as Gibbs keen eye proved accurate and his body went up in a pyrotechnic cloud.
Gibbs looked to Oracle. "Couldn't you have done a spell to make explosives not work period?"
Oracle shook her head as she kept typing. "Nope, if it were that strong it would have effected internal combustion of vehicles passing by, and even once the electric car becomes a reality, even guns are tiny explosions, and we'd have to tag each round. We can set the detectors to certain sizes of explosives, but stop means STOP for spellwork."
Their conversation was cut short as Gibbs question was proven prophetic as rockets slammed into the armory.
The former sniper's eyes were again put to use as even past the thunder impacting the building above he caught a familiar figure tossing aside a disposable rocket tube.
"IT'S ARI!" Gibbs had followed Faith's order for rifles to be kept at hand if not on person and had an M-16 up and to his shoulder as he prepared to charge out of the control room.
Haswari seemed to have the same idea as his hands were filled with an AK-74 as he lead a large pack of other Middle Eastern men in their twenties to thirties in a charge towards the building.
Only one thing could have managed to cut through the red Gibbs was seeing, and as Tara raised her voice she did just that. "Tony! Tim! Get to the Baby Slayers! Get them secured!"
DiNozzo obviously wanted to follow his Boss after Ari. "I don't think they need our protection Tara."
Her blonde locks shook with the force of her negative head shake. "They need to be secured and kept calm. At this point in their training they don't have enough control over their reflexes. They are as much a danger to themselves and us as they would be to the hostiles! NOW MOVE!"
She had been picking up a great deal of her Uncles command style, and they two men jumped as Witch Woman seemed to deploy what could only be called a "Gunny Bark" if it had come out of the former gunnery sergeant.
They hurried to carry out her command as she found herself pinned in the gaze of said former gunnery sergeant who tuned to Galen. "Get her to the secured control room!"
The Celtic war wizard didn't need to be told twice. "YES SIR!"
Instead he turned and pointed to one black suit, and then another. "You two with us!"
Galen was in front of Tara, and the blacksuits were bookending them. It was obvious she didn't want to leave in the current emergency, but she knew that in her current state she was more liability then asset, and that she could do everything that that she could do now from the secure control room as easily as she could from there.
So she nodded as Riley was shouting into his head set. "Invaders on site! No signs of knowing where the elevators are, but signs they know to start looking for them. Blacksuits coordinate and pin them down! Slayers support! Try to flank if you can! I want guns on every way down to greet them if they make the first level!"
Turning to Willow Tara's expression asked the question for her, and Willow shook her head, actually managing a smile. "I'm already engaging the automated defenses here. I step away, and they switch to auto. Go! I'll be fine."
Seeing Tara was being taken care of it was obvious that on one hand Gibbs wanted to go with her and make sure she was secure, but on the other wanted to personally engage his old enemy.
Perhaps thinking that the best defense was a good offense, or even simply trusting Galen's devotion to Tara, Gibbs hurried towards the sounds of conflict.
Tara's eyes swept the control room one last time before she nodded to Galen. Both he and one of the blacksuits seemed ready to move behind and push her chair, but she shook her head.
Taking her pistol and putting it in her lap she put her hands on the rails of the wheels and started out. She had chosen the manual chair because it helped her keep some physical fitness as she healed and worked to rebuild her body to it's previous state, but she had to admit right now a motorized chair probably would have helped.
There was another thunderous roar, but it was obviously closer, and from the direction it seemed to come from Tara assumed that the attackers had found one of the emergency stairways that allowed access between the armory and the first sub-level.
A group of a half-dozen black suits ran past them, combat boots thudding on the hard flooring, rifles up and ready to fire, and Tara sighed, a tear almost coming to her eye.
They knew this day would come. You declare war on the evils of the world, supernatural or otherwise, and they will declare war on you.
Sure it could be argued the predatory types started it, but in fighting back the Lock had made itself a target, and they had now become big enough of one to come under attack.
Another explosion shook the building from almost the opposite direction and Tara knew the defense of the first sub-level would be that much harder from two directions.
The war had come to their door, and now it was time to fight back.
As she started wheeling down a hallway behind Galen and the blacksuit she took a calming, centering breath, reaffirming her dedication to fight that war with all she had.
Then all too suddenly the war found her personally as the blacksuit on point tried to raise his weapon and shoot, but only managed to catch the burst of auto-fire in his chest rather then his face before falling to the ground.
The misting of blood was horrific already, but the terror became personal as from the same direction a voice shouted "There she is!"
It said that Haswari must have recruited some American fanatics for the men he sent after her.
Behind them was the sounds of fighting, as their defenders tried to push back, or preferably wipe-out, Ari's attackers.
In front of them was another batch of invaders who had shown their personal recognition of Tara Maclay, and as the woman in question smoothly pivoted her chair to put her back to the wall the same man made their plans a bit more evident. "We need the woman alive!"
The woman expressed her thoughts on the matter with her Beretta 93-R as it was up and speaking in a three round burst that tore off the jaw of the man giving the attacking team orders.
His work however seemed complete as the invaders charged for them.
Galen and the blacksuit's response didn't need orders from their leader either as they pivoted to stand before her with Galen and her right on the Lock's combat operative on her left.
Their leader however could still speak and was doing so. "You're in my line of fire!"
Their response as obedient to the word as it was disobedient to it's spirit as they dropped to a knee, allowing Tara to shoot over their heads while still putting their bodies between the attackers and her.
"Assholes!" Was her reply, and theirs was still managing to grin even in the current circumstances.
Continuing arguing however would only help their enemies so they focused on acting as a team. With Tara firing over their heads as the two men fired the H&K sub-machine guns that were almost designed for close quarters shooting such as this, and had been distributed to the defenders inside the Lock as soon as Faith had given them the order to arm up.
Tara was desperately trying to think of something else she could do even as she was doing everything she could think of. The fact they were out to take her alive was helping, as was the fact that her people were able to make up a great deal of the difference in numbers with the much higher training requirements the Lock held for it's staff.
The problems were that while she was able to raise a shield the more people it protected the less it protected them from, and while their skill might make up for numbers as more and more piled into the hall Tara was left realizing Ari had literally brought an army.
As she was feeding another magazine into her 93-R her eyes darted up as her blacksuit crumpled to the ground. While her hands carried out the remaining actions of reloading her pistol she looked down and saw that the man had taken two rounds to the head.
Neither Sam, nor Ducky, nor any spell she knew of could have saved the man.
Some probably would have blamed the tear that rolled down her cheek on the cordite filling the air, but Tara herself would proudly admit that even in the middle of a firefight some part of her would steal a moment to remember someone who had just given their life in defense of hers.
Galen however was still standing, and while Tara was playing defense he was playing offense, and several attackers were remembered by the bloody smears that the Celt's spells left streaking the walls in their passing.
While a firefight always would leave one with ringing ears the sudden silence was still deafening, and in their case artificial as the first sub-level still rang with the sounds of battle, but as the pair realized the team attacking them was all laid out, dead or dying, and their guns were the only ones still up and firing they knew this battle had been won.
Though a shared look at the blacksuits stretched out amongst the fallen reminded them both of the cost.
Galen visibly shook that off as he turned to Tara, he even managed one of his sincere, boyish smiles. "Okay, we need to get you to cover."
Tara was returning his smile when she caught movement to his side. Time slowed, and the ringing in her ears was replaced by the hammering of her pulse.
One attacker was more dying then dead and still had the strength to lift the Kalashnikov assault rifle he had carried into battle against them.
While his orders had been to take her alive the man seemed to reach the conclusion that if he was not to survive she would not either and he angled the rifle towards her head.
In those eternal seconds her mind raced for options. Even if she hadn't dropped the shield reflexively after the strain of maintaining it during the firefight the stretched out shielding wouldn't have been sufficient to stop a rifle round at such close range.
Damn it she couldn't even dodge in the wheelchair!
As she found herself staring down the seemingly cavernous rifle barrel Tara knew she was going to die.
In her mind she found herself apologizing, to her people, to her Uncle... and to Faith. Her last thought was to send a prayer to the God and to the Goddess to look after her Darling in the nightmare Tara's death would put her into.
Tara and the terrorist however were not the only two people there, and while Galen could not see the attacker behind him he could see Tara.
He knew Tara, he had been studying her ever since the then shy blond had stepped up to teach him how to tap into his families mystic legacy.
He had watched her as he had been assigned to her personal security, and as such had literally traveled the world with her.
He had sworn that he would keep her safe no matter what, and while he could have dressed it up in words like duty and honor the simple truth was that he was in love with Tara Maclay.
Despite the fact that she was already in a stable, loving relationship, despite the fact that she had no sexual or romantic interest in men he was in love with her, and if it was his life or hers the decision wasn't just simple.
There was no decision.
While he kept a smile it became sad, and that resolution of her impending fate transformed into understanding of his choice.
He stepped in front of her.
The dying terrorist managed a single round, but it found Galen's heart unerringly.
The round echoed, and blood sprayed, hitting Tara in the face.
As she looked at Galen he managed two last words as his knees started to buckle. "I'm sorry."
She knew, she knew it wasn't sorry he loved her, she knew he wasn't sorry he stepped in the way of the death meant for her.
Even now he was putting her before himself and was sorry for the pain his death would cause her.
She watched him slump to the floor and heard the rattle of his last breath.
Her eyes were jerked back up as several shots echoed, but as she looked she saw it was her Uncle coming from the direction of the firing. He had finished off the dying man who had just killed Galen, and while she was raising watery blue eyes to him he wasn't looking at her.
He was looking behind her.
Tara managed a shocked gasp as she was bodily lifted from the wheelchair, with one a man's left arm wrapped around her midsection while his right had a gun under her chin.
Her body went rigid as he cocked the hammer back and held it with his thumb.
A voice with an accent all too similar to Ziva's was then speaking in her ear. "The pistol is right against your skin so you can't shield against it, and with the hammer back you could cast on me, or on the gun, but not both, and if you got one the other would get you."
The man's identity was already fairly obvious, but Uncle Gibbs confirmed it as he had his rifle up and trying to get a shot over Tara's shoulder.
"LET HER GO ARI!"
He was close enough that Tara could feel the muscles of his face shift as he smiled. "I let go and the gun goes off Jethro, and neither of us wants that."
Ari's wiry frame was shown physically capable as he backed up, supporting her weight.
Gibbs rifle never wavered as he followed, and Ari's pace never slowed as he carried Tara while walking backward.
Soon Gibbs was joined by a mixed band of blacksuits, slayers, and a war wizard, but he saw the problem with Ari's pistol before the returned terrorist leader even had to explain it.
Unfortunately Ari got back-up as well as he ordered a retreat.
To the Lock's credit the three who had found their leader were the only survivors of Ari's massive attack squad, but they formed an additional ring around their leader and his captive as they made their way to the windowless white delivery style vans now sitting open and empty of their lethal passengers.
Getting in one the doors slammed and they peeled away.
While the Lock couldn't shoot they weren't about to abandon pursuit, but as Gibbs was leading the charge to seize the terrorist's vehicles they each had explosions under their hoods that might not have been any threat to the men and women of the Lock, but obviously rendered the vehicles unusable.
Inside the van Tara looked on fearfully as Ari loaded a syringe.
He smiled in a way that was still trying to look reassuring in spite of the most recent events. "Do not worry Miss Maclay. If I had wanted you dead I wouldn't have gone to all this trouble. Please do not worry, I am a doctor and I have calculated the dose very carefully."
As the needle broke her skin and Ari pressed the plunger she was filled with a warmth that reminded her of when she had been hospitalized, and then everything went black.
Most of the time "Slayer" was Faith's battle mode, where all of her mind, body, and spirit were focused on the destruction of her enemies.
Now it seemed more a defense mechanism as she sat at the head of their meeting table while people tried to guess what was weighing on her more. The call about her woman's kidnapping, the length emergency flight back to the Lock, or the fact the despite all the time she had been in the air they still had yet to find a lead.
She held up a hand. "Look! I know! I get it. We don't need to debate types or amounts of love. I know we all love Tara. I know you're sorry they got away with her, and I know we're going to get her back. I even know that the fact he took her with rather then simply shoot her dead is a good sign, as is the fact he sent a team after Vance and made a definite attempt to nab Eli David. Recap what you've got."
Riley was solemn as he started to speak. "We attempted to seize Ari's vehicles to begin pursuit, but they were all fit with explosive devices that disabled them. We're presuming either his command vehicle didn't have one, or it was easily disabled before he sent out a detonation signal."
Slayer then interrupted. "Disabled' not destroyed?"
She shook her head. "That doesn't make sense. For these guys every non-Muslim they kill is like high-fiving God. Not only would they wire their vehicles to blow, but they would probably wire it to the ignition or something to try to take us out as we started them up."
Tony then spoke. "Maybe they didn't have enough plastique."
That got another shake of their leaders head. "Three attacks, all so close together, all so well supplied, by whoever managed to spring Ari from Hell? When you add in that while he did go after the heads of the Mossad and NCIS he only did so after our units were on the scene it says he wanted us."
Gibbs voice was just as hard and focused as Slayer's. "And he led the attack here."
His eyes met Slayers and the two shared a curt nod. "We're his targets, everything is was gravy. When looking at this we have to look at it from that angle."
Looking around the room Slayer could see no one could explain the action, and looking back they could see she couldn't either.
With nothing to be said on that front Riley continued. "Having to get to our own vehicles gave him enough of a lead that by the time we caught up we found eight identical vans driving around. All of them occupied by multiple people, and all of them putting up a fight when stopped."
Since Tara wasn't there with them it was obvious she wasn't in any of the eight vehicles, so again Slayer cut right to the point. "Number nine?"
Riley couldn't meet Slayer's eyes. "Found abandoned by another set of tire tracks. Abby's running down the vehicle. A syringe on the scene had been loaded with sedative, and had Tara's blood on needle so we're assuming he sedated her for easy transport and to avoid her being able to cast."
Lex then added. "Depending on his resources he may just keep her sedated while he's holding her, or he may have magicks set up to block her ability to cast. We can probably assume some sort of counter magicks as we still haven't been able to find him with anything, and now Tara's not being picked up either. The rituals to detect Tara are ongoing however, if they slip even the tiniest fraction we'll find her."
Slayer nodded tiredly, not just acknowledging the information, but also the fact that her friend was trying to reassure Faith as well as her self since they both cared deeply for Tara.
Riley then continued in the same forced professional tone. "Mossad and NCIS are both playing ball, willing to let us have our secrecy after connecting it to Haswari's network and saving both of their brass. The Farm's all in as well going after any and all Haswari's mortal terrorist ties from their end."
Gibbs then had a one word question. "Striker?" He had a great deal in common, and he knew the man cared for Tara like he cared for Faith. So he couldn't imagine the Executioner NOT dealing himself into the action.
Slayer gave a quick shake of her head, seemingly not trying to show how much she would have liked the support the cool eyed warrior would have given.
"In the field, when he can disengage he'll be here."
That got a nod from the elder Marine. "But we'll have her home and safe by then."
It was obvious the words were for her, and the fact that she knew it blunted their effect. She still however was grateful.
"How'd we fare the attack?"
Riley didn't have to look at any notes to recall the numbers. "One civilian worker dead, four injured. Six blacksuits dead, seventeen injured. Three War Wizards dead, five injured. Four Slayers injured, no dead."
That got an arched brow from Faith. "Baby Slayers?"
Tim replied to that, and Tony met her eyes right along with McGee. "None dead or injured."
Realizing the two men had been the ones protecting the girls she nodded her respect and gratitude.
Perhaps in different circumstances Faith would have had some motivation words for her people, something to boost their morale, but in this case she simply gave a curt nod. "Get to work."
Stepping outside the control room everyone hurried off to get to work, but Faith gave Gibbs a look that got the man to follow her off to the side of the corridor. Where once there he could see the Slayer persona fraying at the edges as she paced.
"Gibbs? I need you to make me a promise."
His reply was instant as well as sincere. "Name it."
She took a deep breath, and then let it out. "I need you to be ready to stop me."
He didn't bother to actually voice his desire for her to elaborate, but it was obvious enough in his expression.
"You know my past Gibbs. You know what I've done, you know what I'm capable of. I've come a long way, but... fuck Gibbs." Faith ran her fingers through her hair. "It's like all the years in between never happened. It's like I can feel her, that crazy bitch I thought I executed hammering on my head, wanting back in."
Stepping closer to her he stopped her by putting his hands on her shoulders. As their eyes met Faith actually had unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"Listen to me Faith. That is NOT who you are anymore."
Their gaze broke when she shook her head. "But I can feel her Gibbs."
His voice actually hardened. "Look at me!"
She did, but had to wipe her eyes before doing so.
"In some ways Faith, you'll always have that temper, always have that anger. You've seen me when I'm mad. Would you worry about me?"
She shook her head, but still wasn't convinced. "Have you done anything like I did?"
He had to be honest. "No, but I had parents who loved me when I was growing up, and I had the Corps prepare me for war before shipping me out rather then a bunch of tea drinking bastards give me some hand to hand lessons before throwing me into it."
Her head shook again, but this time it was angry. "I did it Gibbs! Not them! They were a bunch of incompetent assholes, but my sins are mine!"
At this he gentled his voice. "And that's why I'm not worried about you Faith. You literally did time, but you did it by choice, you genuinely regret your actions. When you look to recidivism rates those types aren't the ones you worry about re-offending. It's the ones who have excuses, who blame everyone but themselves."
"Even the good ones can fall back into bad habits Gibbs."
His body locked, obviously not liking Faith's ability to contradict him, but not able to ignore her point. "Yes, but even they are the ones without strong networks of people around them helping keep them on the straight and narrow."
She got a small grin at his use of the word "straight" and he noticed it, but neither commented on that as he continued. "You have every right to be angry, and scared, and worried. The woman you love is in unfriendly hands, and I know damn well your mind is running through every possible bad outcome for this, but I can also tell you that the fact that you love her, and that understandable fact that you are worried about her is going to have your mind picking the worst case scenarios."
His hands then dropped from her shoulders. "Damn it Faith! I can't and won't promise you everything is going to be okay. I'm the last person who would, but I can promise you that focusing on anything other then getting Tara back safe and sound is going to make doing just that harder."
Faith took several breaths, visibly pulling herself back together before Gibbs eyes, but when their eyes met again he was assured by the focus he saw.
So he gave her a small smile. "Anyway. Do you think I would let you around my niece if I had any doubts about you?"
The fact that he came into the picture after Tara and Faith were already a well established couple made the question almost comical, but Faith knew that was the point and she smiled.
He however wasn't finished.
"But this is your one."
She was obviously confused by his words.
"Your one emotional talk. I'll give everyone one, but that's it!"
Her smile got even bigger. In so many ways Gibbs was a teddy bear, a well armed, well trained, combat veteran teddy bear. but a teddy bear none the less.
Still, it was ALL of those traits that had her damn grateful he was on her side.
"Steady on Mister Palmer. Anyone of these blighters might have the clue we need to find Tara."
All areas of the Lock's medical bay were filled to capacity.
The seriously wounded had already been treated and were now resting under the careful eye of the rest of the Lock's medical staff while the walking wounded were still getting wounds patched up by the same.
With Tara's kidnapping Ducky, Jimmy, Sam and Cameron who had been detailed to examining the bodies of the attacking force for some clue as to her whereabouts... and there were a lot of bodies.
Fifty seven to be exact, now filled the medical examination area.
With Ari arriving with sixty men and leaving with a mere three, they were left using the large freezers maintained for specimens that wouldn't fit in the human sized drawers.
Partly because of the massive number, but also because they had eleven honored dead of their own in the human-sized drawers, and they didn't want to have them sharing space with the ones who had struck them down.
"Of course Doctor Mallard. It's just there are a lot of bodies."
Ducky slid down his face shield while picking up a small electric bone saw. "Yes, yes, but you don't need to do a full examination. You should skip things like weighing the organs, and we already know their cause of death. You just need to focus on the parts of their bodies that physically interacted with their environment. Hands, and feet, nose and mouth, lungs and stomach. Beyond that it's not a worry."
Jimmy, perhaps just being Jimmy had to ask the obvious question. "Then what will happen to their remains after we're done?"
Sam, perhaps because she was the wife of the second in command Riley Finn was the one to answer. "Some will be kept for the 'official' report of a terrorist attack to steal weapons from a national guard armory. The rest will be incinerated."
Ducky added to Sam's comment. "And the ones that get listed on the report can get their full autopsies later. Now however we each have fourteen abbreviated autopsies to personally perform with the first done taking care of the remainder. So let's have at it."
They did so until they all looked up at a new arrival.
It was Abigail Sciuto, who was looking paler then her Gothic attire allowed for.
Doctor Mallard noticed this and his voice was soft as he spoke. "Abigail?"
She looked to Ducky, and forced a smile. "Hi Ducky, guys, I just thought I'd come down to see if you had any more evidence for me to process?"
While all of them knew it might have been in questionable taste, none of them stopped working as manners didn't matter quite so much when one of their own was in peril.
"I'm sorry Abby, but we don't. Isn't there someone you could have sent down?"
Her pigtails swayed as Abby shook her head. "Not really, between the search for Tara, securing the base after the attack, and cleaning up so it looks like the smaller attack we'll actually be reporting, everyone's pretty busy. So after I set the tests on all these guys clothing and stuff, and the evidence Mossad was suddenly ready to let me take home after the attack, I figured I would check here while waiting for the results."
Jimmy, again perhaps just being Jimmy spoke without thinking. "Then what would you have done with any new evidence we might have had?"
The other three glared at him. Everyone had been rattled by the attack on the Lock, and it was obvious Abby was just looking for companionship, even if her companions were mucking about in the mortal remains of their attackers.
Abby however didn't notice as she was distracted as she walked over to the drawers.
Ducky tried to warn her. "Abby? You probably shouldn't look, those are our fallen."
She looked over her shoulder. "Which one's Galen's?"
The Englishman's reply was quiet. "The first."
She opened it, seeing him cold, gray, covered by just a sheet. "How'd he die?"
Sam replied, her voice also quiet, sad. "Single gunshot wound to the heart... they shot him in the back."
Abby voice was think with emotion. "I saw it." All four looked up, stopping what they were doing as she kept speaking. "I mean I saw the footage. I went by the Temple and Oracle was going over it with everyone."
They knew everyone would have been all of Gibbs people, all of Scooby Squad, Riley Finn along with the rest of Oracle's staff, and other Lock personnel.
The Goth actually wiped her eyes. "They had won, you know? Tara and Galen had been ambushed in a hallway, and while they lost the two guys escorting them they had won, but one guy had enough to lift his rifle."
Ducky then tried to finish for her. "And the bastard got Galen."
She turned to face him, and she was crying. "No, no Ducky. He was aiming at Tara. Galen's back was to him, but somehow he knew. He knew the gun was pointed at Tara and he stepped in the way!"
Cameron then spoke, her voice sad, not crying like Abby's, almost more bittersweet. "He was always such a sweetheart. So devoted to Tara. It got him a lot of grief, but he didn't care. He was so in love with her."
The four medical staff resumed working even as Jimmy spoke. "Did Slayer have a problem with him?"
Cameron managed a sad smile at that. "Nope. She knew Tara was devoted to her..."
Abby interrupted, finding a small smile herself. "Not to mention 'the gayest gay that ever gayed."
Ducky looked up briefly, with a small smile and a quirked brow. "Is that a direct quote?"
The Goth nodded. "From Witch Woman herself."
Nurse Baum was smiling more as she continued, enjoying more the memory of the slain soldier then the awful reality of his loss. "Nah, the guys gave him grief... the girl's kept trying to set him up, and Witch Woman led the effort."
Jimmy then questioned. "Did you try to set him up Cameron?"
The brunette shook her head. "No, but Lex did, MANY times. I was never sure if she made the decision on her own or if Tara had asked for her help, but Lex had sent him on many dates."
Samantha Finn was smiling as well. "It never worked though."
Baum nodded. "He only had eyes for her."
Doctor Mallard wasn't smiling, but wasn't sad either. His voice was strangely solemn, more respectful then anything. "I would hope I could pass so nobly."
Everyone looked at him, but he didn't flinch. "Eventually we all will pass, but to pass like that? To know that the one you love will survive? Wouldn't we all like to have something like that amongst our final thoughts?"
The question was left hanging, but was obviously pondered heavily by the four other people in the room.
At that Abby turned back and put a hand on the man's cold face. "He laid down his life for hers. Gibbs got there in time to make sure the guy didn't get a second shot, but Ari got there at almost the exact same time to grab Tara and put a gun to her head. They obviously managed to get away, but if it hadn't been for him it would have ended right then and there."
The words "Thank you" were silently mouthed to Galen, and not just by Abby, not just in the medical bay either.
Thank you to him, and to all the others who had fought, and who had made that ultimate sacrifice .
Some mouthed the words like Abby, some said them out loud, others simply gave that silent salute to their honored dead.
Tara remembered Galen's smile, warm, happy, with a touch of wickedness, it could charm just about anyone, and yes that included her, if perhaps not in the way that Galen would have wanted.
It was the kind of smile that if she had met him back when she was still trying to convince herself it wasn't all the pretty girls that were what made her heart beat fast could have been the kind of smile she could have used to convince herself that she actually did like boys.
In that aspect she was happy she hadn't met Galen until much later in life, because not only would she have likely never known what she has with Faith, he was too sweet of a man for that lie.
No matter how happily he would have accepted it.
She tried to find him something real. Lord and Lady knows she tried. She even went to the length of recruiting Lex to help her find the right woman for Galen, and while Lex gave her all, and sincerely wanted to find the sweet guy a sweetheart who would love him the way he deserved to be Lex was still Lex and still couldn't help but comment.
"I'm impressed. As gay as you are and still managing to ruin men for all other women."
There were times Tara even got angry about it, but she never let it show except at night when she was alone with Faith in their quarters.
Faith however would side with Galen. Once she knew that he was making every effort to make sure that Tara was comfortable with his presence then Faith could only sympathize saying that after Tara, Faith herself was ruined for all other women AND men.
He had made sure she as comfortable with his presence, made sure that she knew he didn't expect anything. He even went on every date she set him up on.
Yet every time he would come back, and nothing had changed.
That wasn't entirely true. Despite telling him that he shouldn't talk about her on the date she figured he must have because several of his dates developed their own crushes on her.
She remembered that smile, his face flush with victory, before it turned sad. Sad for her, and what he knew his death would cause her, but also sad for himself as he was a person who truly loved life.
She remembered reading it, reading his intent just like she knew he must have read her realizing she was about to die. She wanted to scream at him, to tell him no, to tell him that her life was NOT more valuable then his!
The rifle spoke first however, and she felt his lifeblood splash her face as the bullet entered and exited his chest, it's trajectory altered enough by the passage through his body as to whip past her head harmlessly.
She remembered the light fading from his eyes as he dropped to his knees, his "I'm sorry" before he finally toppled over.
Waking she felt tears at her eyes trying to form, and her hand unconsciously reaching to wipe Galen's blood from her face.
Waking she looked up into the face of her kidnapper Ari Haswari. It was a face she knew was handsome enough, and she could see some family resemblance between him and Ziva.
All that she had already picked up when she read his file. What startled her was what appeared to be sincere regret on said face as he started to speak. "I apologize. I had given strict orders for you not to be harmed. If they had been followed your friend would not have had to sacrifice himself."
To the side a cough was heard, and both Tara and Ari looked to the Arabic looking man in his twenties clad in white linen shirt, khakis and brown boots.
Haswari addressed him. "Did you have something to say?"
The words may have been a question, but Ari's expression demanded an answer, and once it started to be given the young man didn't hold back his contemptuous tone. "She is diseased, and he was a fool to sacrifice himself for a woman he could never have!"
Tara's eyes flashed, but Ari held up a hand to try to calm her as he spoke. "He sacrificed himself for his leader. I was there, and I saw him choose to lay his life down for hers, but you have been told the American's are incapable of such acts haven't you?"
The young man seemed to have realized Ari wasn't going to join him in his opinion, and he was about to be contradicted by what Tara knew was at least his leader, if not some sort of Messiah figure. It was a realization that locked his eyes to a vacant stretch of wall, and his legs and spine into a single steel rod.
Ari was now facing him. "I'm sure countless Imams have told you the Westerners are all cowardly and corrupt, and I'm sure you followed those lessons well before bellowing about God's greatness."
As he continued Tara realized Ari was speaking in English for her benefit.
"If that is what you truly believe then tell me now, and I will dismiss you from my service."
The stricken look the young man got told Tara Ari was closer to a Messiah to his followers then a mere leader.
As the young man physically paled at the mention of his dismissal Ari continued. "Our enemies are capable of courage, and sacrifice, and it is only BECAUSE of that sacrifice that my plans were not ruined by a disobedient fool who decided he would rather take one more life before dying then following MY orders."
The young man finally replied, with a stutter. "B-but M-master, you would have likely had to strike down the fool to take the woman captive anyway."
That got a single nod from Ari. "Then however your brother would have died carrying out my orders rather then making his last act defying them. You need to listen well my son. Miss Maclay is not to be harmed unless she tries to escape, and even then she is to be restrained as gently as possible. I will reiterate this to your brothers, but I you WILL place her life before your own. If you can not carry out my order I will not dismiss you from my service, but I will send you elsewhere until I am finished here."
Tara was confused, really confused, but her mind was taking in everything she could.
Her mind was still fuzzy. That combined with the small bandage on her hand said that she had been sedated via IV, if she had been sedated long enough she may have even been fed through it. The growing feeling of hunger seemed to support the idea as her stomach felt empty.
She was still in the clothes she had been in when the Lock had been attacked, and other then what felt like alcohol swipe over where the needle in her hand had been she still felt the grime and blood of battle, except her face, which she realized had been washed.
Considering the feelings of his followers she had to assume Ari had did it.
Remembering Ari was a doctor Tara realized he must have been watching her as the sedation cleared.
Paying no more attention to his follower he turned back to Tara.
"I would prefer to simply call you my guest, but I will respect your intelligence enough to call you a hostage, and while my men have all been instructed not to harm you they will keep you confined, even if that means I end up having to keep you sedated for the length of your stay."
She didn't want that. Right now she didn't know her situation, she didn't even have enough of her faculties at this precise moment to evaluate it, but evaluate it she would.
It was the first step, Ari currently had control of the situation, and therefore had control of her, but in her many lessons her darling Faith had made it clear that no situation was hopeless until you surrendered that hope.
Tara would watch, she would wait, she would find her opening.
She would then either escape or get word back to the Lock.
The problem was as Ari looked at her she got the distinct feeling he was counting her on doing just that.
Riley was the first to protest, but tensions were rising in the conference room and people were picking sides.
"Look, I want to get Tara back as much as you do." At Faith's arched brow he amended his sentence. "Maybe not AS much, but damn it you know what I am saying! She would be the first person to protest this idea!"
Faith exhaled. "Point one, if I was the one in enemy hands don't bet on it. Point two, Lex is volunteering. Point three, she can't protest because she isn't here. Point four, this is NOT a democracy. Tara may be the head administrator, but I am and have always been the CO! This is happening!"
As she finished she was shouting, and everyone fell silent. While they all knew the amount of stress Faith was under it wasn't until that point they began to truly realize what she was going through.
Finn softened his tone. "Okay, and if this could tell us for sure where Tara was that would be one thing, but all she's doing is gathering intel on Ari. It might give us an idea of where he stashed her, or it could just fill in what happened between when his brains got blown out in Gibbs basement and when he drew his breath back on this side of the soil. Fact is the latter is more likely since he would have had to get a hideout AFTER getting back."
Abby interrupted. "Let's cut to the case. She's going to Hell. Going on the off chance that she MIGHT learn something that could lead us to Ari?"
Lex came right back. "I'm astrally projecting. My body will be here in a near-death state while my spirit goes to Hell, and not only did I volunteer, it was my damn idea."
Angel then spoke, his voice... well those that know him would have been on him for brooding in other circumstances. "That's because you have no idea what you are getting yourself into Lex."
The tension in the room cooled at that and everyone focused on Angel as he took a calming breath and kept going. "You can talking about rings, and the sins they represent, but no matter how close Dante came he didn't realize why he kept running into people he knew. Even for visitors like him, and you, Hell has one purpose, destroying your humanity. It is a living force that's only purpose is to destroy the person that was tossed inside."
Buffy was sitting next to Angel as she then interrupted, but rather then doing so with volume she did so with the opposite, her voice quiet, and quaking. "You remember? When you came back..."
His reply was almost as quiet, but calmer. "I was in pieces, they broke me Buffy. I believe that was the first step, but whatever brought me back brought me back before they could finish the job."
He then looked back to Lex. "And that's what they will try to do to you. You will not walk out of there the same."
Lex looked the former vampire square in the eye. "Dante didn't just go there. He was sent. He was sent there to confront his humanity, to see evil in it's rawest form, to look past all the lies, obfuscation, and just plain bullshit everyone uses to justify their evil acts. The ritual I'll be using will be asking Isis to guide me through Duat and into the netherworld. If she agrees to bring me then I'm going to go, and I challenge anyone here to say they wouldn't be willing to march through Hell if they thought it had even the smallest chance to find Tara."
Proposing the idea had been the first challenge Lex had to face, but the fact that Faith was still the CO was the trump card that no one could beat. They could try to change the woman's mind, but most gave up quickly knowing that they wouldn't get Faith to abandon any possible lead to finding her lost love.
Though Ziva's support, and equating of the process to her own intelligence activities had been a nice boost to her side of the argument, as well as making Team Wet Dream a unified front.
No, Lex might not make it out of Hell the same person she went in, but Dante was better for the experience, and even if she came out worse for the trip she owed Tara too much not to try.
Ducky had been her next obstacle. Lex had been hoping for Sam, but she figured Sam and especially Cameron had counted on Lex hoping for a female opponent she could work her whiles on, because even if married Lex could easily charm Doctor Finn almost as well as she could the Doctor's lovely assistant Cameron.
A lovely assistant who everyone knew would have had a snowball's chance on her impending trip of denying Lex anything.
So the charming, and MALE Doctor Mallard was the only one in the medical bay to greet Lex.
"I fail to see why we can't have you hooked up to a heart monitor as you undergo this ritual."
"First Ducky, I can tell you what you would read. I would be in what you would call a coma in a state on the verge of death. The reason for that is my spirit, my animating force, has stepped out of my body for a moment. The problem would be that I can't see you guys not seeing SOME sort of fluctuation and getting it into your heads to try to 'help' me, and doing additional damage."
Seeing Ducky ready to protest Lex carried on. "And even if you managed to not do that the ritual has strict requirements for me to slip my soul out of my body, as well as request passage on Isis' Barge, and I won't risk offending my goddess to satisfy your intellectual curiosity."
He harrumphed, and scowled slightly, and then got a small smile. "And third?"
She gave him her own small smile. "No third, even the first was more your benefit. I could have simply said 'Isis says I should do it this way.' and that would be that... we've got enough shit to worry about then to go offending the gods."
That got a small short of laughter out of the Doctor, who then walked over to a table.
There he picked up a folded up body bag. "It's been modified to be able to be opened and closed from the inside as you requested, but may I ask why?"
That first got a sigh in reply. "Because I am undergoing a simulated death ritual. Back when it was first being performed the priest or priestess would be sealed in a sarcophagus, but since I am a twenty-first century kind of gal I made this adjustment because it would be the image that impacts ME psychologically."
Ducky's brow fist scrunched in confusion, and then smoothed in understanding. "So you are saying that being put in a sarcophagus wouldn't feel 'real' to you, but being zippered into a body bag would?"
Lex was taken back. "Actually that's exactly it."
Doctor Mallard smiled. "When I came on here at the Lock I expanded my studies to the places where traditional science did recognize occult matters, and while they obviously don't recognize the full impact of magick the importance of ritual has been studied to some depth."
He then walked over, getting an oxygen tank and mask. "And while I will give you that heart monitoring might disrupt your own mental processes I will put my foot down on this because body bags are NOT constructed for occupants that still need to breathe."
She couldn't argue that point, and didn't truly want to as she took the small oxygen tank and attached mask, and left to finish her preparations.
Yes, those preparations involved getting naked, but this time it wasn't just Lex's normal proclivity to nudity. No, while Lex's normal proclivity to nudity centered around a celebration of life this ritual was about death... and when bodies were being prepared for internment they were naked.
Of course the ritual didn't demand things like the famous metal hook to yank out her brain, or the removal of her organs, but Lex still worked in the empty, quiet, darkened ritual room as she rubbed various anointing oils into her skin.
Then she began her breathing preparations. She needed them as she looked over to the body bag unrolled on the floor.
It was the likely fate of the war witch, just as it had been the fate of so many of her fellow soldiers so short a time ago, but standing here looking at it she felt her pulse rate jump.
Her training however planned for that sort of thing, and she was able to basically will herself to a state of calm, even if that meant more accepting the fear, letting it wash over and then past her.
Picking up her cellphone she sent the text that said she was beginning the ritual, and then she shut the device off.
The bag was already unzipped, opened, and waiting for her to slide inside. The oxygen tank was there as well, and she shifted the cooled metal away from her as she slipped in. The mask was affixed, and the life giving oxygen flowing before she sat up enough to reach for the zipper.
Now sealed inside the absolute black of what Lex's mind told her would be the end of her mortal existence she had to work past that all too mortal fear of death. Fuck, she had to face it, maybe even fight it to bring herself to a state of calm necessary for the next part of the ritual, but that was part of the process.
A process she completed as she felt her pulse settle, and her mind, nay spirit, reach that point of clarity where she worked her art from.
It was there she felt herself laying on something other then the hard floor. It was soft, and warm, and as Lex's other skill set told her female.
Opening her eyes Lex looked up into the face of her goddess, who Lex was now reclining in the arms of.
Looking to the left, and then to the right she saw she was on an Egyptian barge.
She had done it! She was on the Barge of Isis!
Which meant she was now on her way to Hell.
Isis showed she could read the mind of her priestess still, and her smile was both proud and sad. "Welcome my child. This is your last chance to turn back."
While Tara was alone in the rest room she knew Ari and his Aide were right outside.
The fact that she could barely walk undoubtedly allayed most of their fears that she might be trying some sort of escape. Not that there was any window or anything of the sort in the room, but Ari's using of her as a human shield in his escape from the Lock had left her wheelchair behind, and they hadn't bothered to provide her a new one. The terrorist leader instead helping her into the rest room to take care of her basic human functions.
It wasn't too great a leap to assume that even if they had gotten her out of there with her chair it would have been confiscated to help confine her movement.
Yes, she could 'barely' walk, but it was just enough for her physical therapy sessions at this point, or in this case getting around the rest room, but still not able to get to it unassisted.
While her magick was an option she wouldn't be allowed to simply get up and go home, and she couldn't cast to help her own mobility while simultaneously fighting her way through her captors.
She didn't even know where she was at the moment. The air was warm and dry, so Mexico was a distinct possibility, but she hadn't even been allowed near a window at this point so even that was supposition.
Her more likely option was finding a way to communicate back to the Lock, but now that she was inside whatever was shielding him she could feel magick hiding the whole complex where she was being held.
It didn't feel strong enough to be physically masking the location, but it seemed strong enough to deflect most any magick searching, and it would contain any attempts Tara might make to communicate past it.
Again, she had to wait for her opening.
For now she tended to her basic a bodily functions. After that she cleaned herself up at the sink.
While Haswari had treated her wounds she was still covered in sweat, and grime, and the assorted filth of both her conscious combat and unconscious travel.
A fresh set of clothing, a simple white t-shirt, blue jeans, white socks and undergarments as well as white sneakers had been provided, and not seeing any reason not to other then simple resistance for it's own sake she opted to put on the fresh clothing.
Knocking on door Ari was the one to open it and help her back to the bed that she had woken up on, already with fresh linens.
Again Ari's medical training came to mind and she thought old reflexes must be kicking in. Though she also knew that it was Haswari's nature to try to bond with his captives, but it was Tara's only option at this point so she decided to try it as he spoke after standing once she was resting comfortably on the bed.
She looked down to her lap. "Yes, thank you."
He wasn't convinced. "Then what's wrong?"
She sighed. "I've just come to accept that I AM Gabrielle."
The Aide didn't get her joke at all, but after a short moment Ari smiled widely. "And now your leather-clad girlfriend needs to show up and imbed a sharpened steel disc between my eyes."
Tara was about to smile back, but to the side they both felt Ari's Aide bristle. Ari rolled his eyes, and didn't turn from Tara as he spoke. "We took the woman from her home at gun point. We can not expect her to be grateful."
He scowled. "She SHOULD be grateful. She can now dwell amongst righteous men rather then the wicked women she is used to! It is her chance to learn a woman's proper place!"
Haswari sighed, and while he was still facing Tara he gave her an apologetic look before his face hardened as he stood and turned to face his Aide.
"I have made my wishes very clear. You are not to teach her anything, you are are not to harm her in any way, you are to keep her confined and that is all. Until now you have served me well, but until now we have not truly known conflict. Know that I AM disappointed in you. Now go."
While the your Arab looked like he had been slapped Ari's expression didn't relent until the man had left the room. As he turned back Haswari again had a pleasant smile. "Good help is so hard to find."
Tara's reply was quiet. "I don't know, I've had little trouble."
He sat pulled a chair to the head of her bed. "That is because you are seeking to bring battle to Hell itself, that attracts the best and bravest of any people. The best and bravest who have a genuine concern over the actions of Western Powers tend to favor more legal avenues, leaving me with violent reactionaries incapable of accepting change. That said I will put more obedient guards on your door."
The blonde witch looked at him quietly, and he returned the stare until she spoke. "I could even see you as the Ares of this story. The reasoned creator of conflict."
His smile grew. "You have no idea."
As that smile grew Tara felt her heart ice over, their discussion already baring fruit, fruit that she couldn't stop herself from sharing. "That's what this is about isn't it? You are out to awake our 'Xena's' dark side, and I'm the only real way of doing that."
For the first time since she met him, and from her reading of his file perhaps the only time since Ziva showed up in Gibbs basement Ari Haswari looked sincerely surprised, and then that smile returned.
"You are often under estimated aren't you Tara? When most look at you they see a lover, or partner to Faith. Maybe a friend, or a leader, or even a surrogate mother, but I imagine that you have spent a great deal of your live having people never realize who you are and what you are truly capable of."
At first her eyes narrowed thinking he wasn't going to answer her question, but then he continued.
"You are correct. Yourself and your partner changed the world once already, and will continue to do so, but your partner is not where she needs to be. Not yet. The attacks on Mossad and NCIS were just to pull your best people away and keep them away. The attempts to kidnap Director Vance and my Father mere smokescreens. This IS all about the two of you."
She felt her pulse rising as her stomach churned. She knew right after Tara being hurt Faith's second greatest fear was that she would return to old habits, but before she replied Tara forced herself to calm down.
"Even if you could somehow kill me and pin it on the US Government or the Forces of Light, or the like, Faith would still blame you for putting me in the situation."
His head shook and his voice was solemn.
"Tara, you are in no danger from me. I want to awaken your partner's animalistic side, not send it rabid."
"She's still going to be out for your blood."
His grin grew. "As will be Jethro and countless entities both human and otherwise. I actually just received word from D'Hoffryn that Anyanka was ready to offer free wishes to everyone at the Lock as long as they would A. Get you home safely or B. Punish me for my actions. I'm lucky I had the foresight to speak to him in advance."
Tara felt another sick lurch. While Anya was part of their intelligence network on demon kind, her reaction could easily be attributed to a demoness with memories of being human.
The fact that Ari was showing no signs of thinking Anya's reactions any more then that did little to settle her nerves though, but being in her situation all she could do was pray for the demoness, and then have a brief moment where her mind contemplated the fact she was saying a prayer for the demoness, before she finally found her voice again.
"I have to wonder what your followers would say if they knew you were consorting with demons?"
His reply was instant. "King Solomon consorted with demons and will still a righteous man."
As was hers. "He controlled demons, there is a difference."
He nodded the point. "That there is, but I am the Risen Martyr, you are a homosexual heathen woman, and I am confident in my position."
Then he stood. "But now you should rest. Things are far from over, and you should conserve your strength. If you need anything just call out to the guards, who will either help you or summon me."
Seeing there was already a water pitcher and glass as well as some fruits, bread, and cheese, on a table close enough for her to reach from the bed she realized all there was now was the waiting as Haswari left, and locked the door behind him.
The sun was rising on a new day, and Faith was standing on the roof of the Lock to greet it.
It was the first new day since Tara had been taken, and Faith hadn't bothered to try to sleep. The images her mind were conjuring up when she was awake were bad enough, she didn't want to contemplate what her subconscious could come up with if she allowed it the full reign of dreams.
No one was sleeping at this point, saving those injured in the attack.
The attack, fuck, they had always known, always prepared, and frankly their preparations had all went off perfectly. They picked up Ari's suicide bomber right away, and while they couldn't stop him from firing rockets they could have dropped him at a distance with snipers, spells, or their own rockets if that was all he had done.
While he was able to breech the armory itself that was no surprise, it was their public face, it was technically open to the public, and though they had spells set up to encourage people to not think of visiting they had to keep the facade friendly to the community.
The breaching of the first level only happened because Ari knew it was there, and even then his people were being repelled before they even touched down.
That only three of his sixty man attack squad died here was just a testament to her people's skill and ferocity in battle. but they had STILL been attacked!
She didn't berate herself for the fact she was in Israel at the time. Striker had taught her early on not to beat yourself up, if your enemy out thinks you then learn from the experience and make sure they don't do it again.
It was more the simple fact that the Lock, her facility, her HOME really had been attacked. It wasn't a surprise really, Stonyman Farm, the facility that had first found and trained her had went through it's own attack by Russian agents back in the eighties, and had narrowly avoided an assault by terrorists back around the turn of the millennium.
Faith had actually been in the process of being trained then, and had rode with Striker in those battles. It had been a big part of breaking down her final walls in battling human opponents.
When you picked the fights they did eventually the enemy would strike back.
Still, it made her ache with the need to hit back even harder. It was the one thing that could distract her from the slowly twisting knife blade of worry in her gut.
This was the first time ever since she had first approached the then shy blond between classes that she didn't know approximately where Tara was.
Yeah, okay, that sounded bad, but it wasn't a controlling thing. Faith had a good idea of the dangers out there before she had ever been called as a slayer. When you added being called, and then being trained by the Farm, it was impossible NOT to be overprotective of those you love.
She hadn't been able to keep the blond one hundred percent safe in their years together, between their most recent shoot out in the Witches Powder drug den, and when Tara had been held captive by the Watcher's Council while they sent assassins after her Tara had been exposed to danger, but even when she and Tara were shot up and in real danger of bleeding out she had been able to take action.
She drove like hell for the Lock, she called Gunn for help to meet them part way, she set off their emergency beacon, she could do something other then stand here and stew, and watch the sun rise while wondering if Tara could see it's rays where she was being held.
The only thing that kept her from pacing was hearing the roof access door open behind her.
Turning she saw Rupert Giles' nod of acknowledgment. "Hello Faith."
"Hey G, taking a break?"
The Former Watcher smiled. "It's an option now that I have more then a few high school students there to aid me in research."
His smile then grew as he reached into his jacket. "I am however here on a semi-official duty, or maybe just a responsibility as a friend."
Her slayer nose had already given her an idea of what was going on, but when he pulled out a lighter and a small paper-wrapped tube her smile had her dimples in full display, a fucking joint.
She was reluctant however. "It's a sweet thought G, but I dunno..."
"Come now Faith. I'm not suggesting we pick up a half dozen pizzas and open up my record collection. Your stress is entirely understandable, but it's killing you. The worry is doing more to blunt your edge then a single joint ever could."
As he saw her reluctantly nod he found himself thinking of how this strange friendship had formed.
At first he couldn't have thought of her as a friend as he was to be her Watcher. Now even older and wiser he knew that his failure to keep a distance in his relationship with his first slayer Buffy should have mandated he sought to create a similarly close bond with Faith rather then attempting to do things the "right" way, as the Council dictated.
Giles had started to come around when Faith had accidentally staked Allan Finch, but Wesley was then there to actively block his efforts with Faith.
Which directly led to the young woman's sad fall.
By the time she had come back Rupert had managed to convince himself that despite the sorry circumstances that had led Faith down her path it was his responsibility to make sure that she couldn't hurt anyone else.
It had been the justification he had given himself when he conspired with Quentin Travers, which should have been enough to tell him that he was one the wrong path.
As he put the joint between his lips, lighting it and taking that first fragrant drag he thought of how wrong Faith had proven him when she had sent Riley and Able Team in to save him and everyone else they could from the fall of the Watcher's Council.
Not just saving them, but giving them a new home at the Lock to match their old purpose . Though some had declined, and others couldn't make the cut Giles had been one of those welcomed aboard.
Welcomed may have been a bit strong, but he had been given the chance to prove himself, and prove himself he did, eventually making it to being asked to form the Lock's first action team, Scooby Squad.
Though Rupert had been trained physically as a Watcher, and had maintained his conditioning both with the rigors of life on the Hellmouth as well as deliberate exercise the standards they expected of him at the Lock had redefined grueling to him.
It had been after a rather intense training session that Giles had snuck off to the roof to light up. Though his first experiences with cannabis had been in his "Ripper" days simply for the high even then he had discovered the plants wonderful painkilling properties.
Despite his straight-laced demeanor Giles had never forgotten those properties, and had maintained a life-long love of the substance. Never indulging to the point of burn out, but knowing it was a wonderful alternative to harsh over the counter painkillers as well as a way to shut off the parts of his mind that would have otherwise refused to let go of the horrors his duties had exposed him to.
He still drank on occasion, but honestly that was almost more a way to punish himself senseless.
It had been physical pain he was managing that day when after about half a joint was gone he realized he hadn't heard the roof access open and now Faith was standing there smirking at him.
At first he had froze, both body and mind, not knowing what would happen to the image most held of him.
She however had simply said "May I?" before taking the still lit joint out of his hand and taking a drag that told Giles it wasn't her first.
She held the smoke, and then released it in a long exhale. "Daaaaaaaaaamn! That's nice! You have GOT to introduce me to your dealer."
He smiled. "I... I grow."
Faith put an arm over his shoulder. "Giles, I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
And it was.
He did grow, and his plants had such a yield that he had always had a surplus, a surplus that he now was able to enjoy with Faith. As he did so the two found a common bond of those who were good, but perhaps not as "nice" as a great many of those around them.
Old grievances were forgotten in the clouds of pungent smoke, and the two had been able to share their memories, both good and bad of their sordid pasts.
It had been that "Ripper" in him that had told him to roll a joint and find Faith, and as Rupert watched Faith take a deep drag before passing it back he knew it had been a good idea
After he took a drag and passed it back he could see the tension visibly draining from her. He knew she was still worrying, but the cannabis was tricking her body into not manifesting the various results of that worry.
As he watched the change coming over Faith he noticed something, she was carrying two pistols. One was her Mk. 23, the other was a Beretta 93-R, and he realized it without it having to be said, Faith was carrying Tara's pistol. Possibly just as a way to feel connected, but knowing Faith it was just as likely she had vowed to find her woman and hand it back personally.
Even with the dire situation he wanted to laugh, though the pot probably had something to do with that, but the idea that Tara would leave Willow, wind up with Faith, and the lot of them would end up working for the two fiercely devoted women would have been beyond comprehensible at one point.
Yet now he couldn't see it any other way.
He then spoke. "I should probably get back to work."
Faith sighed, they had finished another pass, but this time when she was ready to pass it back he shook his head for her to finish it. "I would, but while I've been covering for Tara everyone has what they need so I can't do anything there, and there's no one for me to shoot so all I can do it stew."
Giles frowned. "Faith, finish the joint." As she did he deliberately cracked a joke. "I suppose we should be glad the Lock doesn't practice drug testing."
That got a laugh from the woman. "I could get fired!"
The resulting laughter at that notion had the both red faced with laughter as they headed back into the building.
Lex had arrived on the Barge as naked as a newborn. Now however she was clad in the garments of one of Isis ancient clergy, from the sandals on her feet to the effectively transparent white linen gown with gold accessories, to her freshly kohled eyes, to her braided and beaded hair Isis had personally prepared her priestess for her journey.
She knew that her new garb was her perception of Isis' preparations, but she knew her whole journey would be based on her perceptions of the unfolding events.
Of course that was true of any events a person experienced, but in the spirit realms it was taken to the extreme. Science would say that it was all just images conjured by the subconscious, with the person drifting somewhere between a dream and a delusion.
Angel's advice had followed the idea that the spirit realm the modern world called "Hell" had a sort of will to it that sought your downfall and altered itself to best bring that about.
As a magician, as a priestess, Lex fell somewhere between the two. The practitioner of magic walked between worlds, just like Lex couldn't comprehend the full measure of what Isis was doing to prepare her, her human mind couldn't take in the raw stuff of Hell.
It wasn't a matter of the horror per se, but even in the physical world while Lex could teleport from place to place she would be at point A, or point B. So it wasn't more a matter of could, or couldn't, but for Lex to be Lex her perceptions had to be mortal perceptions, and just like Lex couldn't be in two places at once her mind would process Hell through her mortal filters.
Just as Isis was taking on a far simplified form that others might know as Aphrodite, or Freya, the science of quantum mechanics taught that the one perceiving the event quantified it.
Like now the river the Barge had been traveling was widening, so much that Lex could no longer see the banks of either shore.
Intellectually she knew that she was leaving the realms of the living, and drawing closer to the realms of the dead, more accurately the place where the souls of the damned were dragged by the weight of their sins.
Closing her eyes she could almost picture her body back at the Lock getting cold, still, not dead, but as close as one got without crossing over.
Then she heard something, cries in the distance, and she shivered. The embrace of Isis enveloped her even as she strained to listen.
"This is all wrong!" Sounded like it came from a woman.
"What! What's happening?" Was said by a man.
As she heard another voice she started to realize what was going on.
"He... he said I would return! That Allah would bring me back even from death itself!"
In conjunction with that realization Lex was now able to make out a barge in the distance, and she knew it was the boat of Charon. The normal way of passage for all, she knew that Isis was personally ferrying her along that passage.
As the ferry continued past them Isis still held her and now spoke softly in her ear. "Tread carefully Beloved. While my Husband has weighed your heart and I have placed my mark upon it that only ensures that your soul can not be held here. While it shall journey to me upon your death you need to take care that does not happen here. Though most of the damned will see my mark upon you and know to fear me others will hate you for knowing the Glory they spurned, and will seek your life if nothing else."
Even though she didn't use actual lungs to do so Lex took a deep breath.
With that the other shore came into view, and the Barge slid silently to the shore line. Her Goddess kissed her once more, and then Lex stepped onto the shore.
Steeling her resolve she continued forward without looking back. She knew the Barge would wait there to deliver her back to the lighted world.
She was now in what Dante had called Limbo. He had wanted to see it as a place where the souls that his Catholic upbringing would condemn to Hell could technically be IN Hell, without truly being in torment.
So that was what he saw.
The ancient Greeks thought this where the dead who hadn't been buried properly wandered for one hundred years wandered before Charon would take them to the afterlife.
So that was what they saw.
For Lex she saw her expectations. Physically the landscape was the barren, blasted wasteland terrain most everyone associated with Hell. For her though that terrain was covered by lines, long processionals where those who sins had dragged them to this point were left until they found their way to their proper place of punishment.
Because that was how Lex saw it.
Many held that there was some sort of judge, even the ancient Egyptians saw Isis husband Osiris as their judge, but for Lex just as Isis was an embodiment that Lex could comprehend the judge of the dead was an embodiment that others could understand.
Lex had taken on the Mark of the Divine onto her soul, they had taken on, what she heard Striker so wonderfully call, the Mark of the Beast, and they did it by their own choosing. So would they find their way to their punishment, and the same choices that led them to Hell would lead them into it.
Her eyes were forward and her stride was calm as she walked past them. While some eyes darted to her, they all ended up looking away, already seeing their own wickedness highlighted in contrast.
While she may joke otherwise, Lex truly did seek to be virtuous. Not in the more rigid ways that mortals tended to see them, but in the dignified fashion that was true no matter what the age.
For her the passage onward was also the passage downward, literally so as she followed the lines of damned souls into tunnels in the blasted tarn beneath them, leaving the featureless black skies of the border between life and death behind.
The first time the tunnel opened up there was a fresh sky above her, but it was storm-laden with billowing black clouds and fierce winds. Though they barely stirred her, she could see the souls that had found their way here born aloft on the horrid winds.
A wry smile actually appeared on her face, because she didn't know if her mind was mirroring Dante's passage, or if she was just confronting a self-doubt that she knew she should probably get out of the way before going much farther.
The passage itself had hinted as the damned she had passed on her way here had propositioned her so much that it felt almost like clubbing, except for Hell lacked house music, but now she knew she was in the Circle of Lust.
Yet the differences were jarring. So jarring that she felt worse that she had doubt then any concerns she had for her passions, because that's what they were, passions. She HAD met these souls before, those who had descended into their own personal fleshy Hells long before their hearts ever stopped beating.
She had turned from them then, and similar disgust had her turning from them now.
It was that look of disgust that had whatever lithe, well shaped demons on this realm turning from her.
Lex had learned long ago that while physical beauty was undeniable it was the person who wore it that truly made beauty, or the hollow mockeries that made attempts to lure Lex that all knew were pointless.
For a circle she thought would truly vex her Lex blew past Lust.
At the next circle she knew she was following the path she had read in Dante's Inferno as she stepped into another sky, this one storming as the last, but dropping icy rains that neither chilled nor soaked her.
It was unsurprising as while Lex could and did indulge in rich food none would ascribe her to Gluttony.
There she stood before the great worm Cerberus as it raised up, seeming ready to consume her in it's futile attempts to assuage it's unending hunger.
Where Dante's guide Virgil had fed the beast the mud upon which she now stood Lex held out her hand and summoned the moonlight of Isis.
The light formed a ray that then split into three, filling each mouth with a meal that it could never consume, that left it rolling, writhing, crushing the damned beneath it as Lex walked past.
Her perception of Greed was updated for the twenty first century with the Prodigal, those who squandered wealth now in Ed Hardy t-shirts and Dolce and Gabbana Sunglasses while the Miserly now wore the suits and ties of the executives who would cut workforces and deny health care claims with their only concern being their bonuses rather then the results of their actions.
They still clashed in conflict over their uses of their income, but Lex barely blinked at them as they continued their eternal clashes.
She would like to call it a result of her incredibly enlightened nature, but restraint was the one virtue that the Detton family embraced. Even in their sin-steeped state her family felt that sins of the flesh might be fine to indulge in a recreational fashion, but they always felt that those who became truly ensnared by them were beyond pathetic.
It was one of the few times she agreed with them.
Her journey wasn't even half done though, and the sins were becoming more willful, more deliberate. Those who rejected self control would soon be replaced by those who actively embraced wickedness, and they would stand between her and her ultimate goal.
In Wrath Lex found her focus shifting. There she saw a white man in modern dress, with black hair and stubble, and it seemed like the rest of the circle was after him. He was fighting smart, hit and run, strategic as well as tactical, but with them all dead his results were limited.
He did however manage to pique her curiosity, and since she had sprouted wings like so often seen in idols of Isis to carry her over the swamp like waters of the River Styx she was able to swoop in, and extend her hand.
To her pleasure not only did he grab it, he didn't try to pull her down like the others who had been jumping up to grab her as she flew over head.
Setting him down by her arrival point she landed next to him. To find him smiling.
She was still stunned at the polite reception, and it showed in her voice.
His smile actually grew. "John, my name is John."
A small, but still unsure smile found it's way to her face. "Lex... ummm Alexandra."
His expression was still pleasant. "I know. I know why you are here, and where you are going. You need to continue."
Her uncertainty was obvious, but before John had to explain she nodded in realization. "You can see the future, but not the present."
His smile returned, if rueful. "There's a reason the Divine Comedy sold as many copies as it did."
Lex started regarding him more intently. "Definitely a hundred time platinum seller. I'm sorry to be blunt John, but they seemed to really hate you even for the circle of Wrath."
The man's rueful smile remained, maybe even grew. "I have history with a great many, and it's the kind of history that got the rest after me as well."
The priestess frowned. "I'm sorry about that John, but there's nothing more I can do to help you. You've read the Inferno too I guess, and you've earned your spot John. Charon doesn't take return passengers."
That got her a head shake, John looking down before looking back up at her. "You've done plenty already Lex. I figure I'll take my chances some circles up, defy them for the sake of defying them."
Her head shook, her face taking on it's own rueful smile. "I'm guessing that's part of the attitude that landed you here in the first place John, but I wish you luck."
The rueful smile became sincere. "Thanks, for all of it."
She put her hands on her hips. "Future thanks?"
He laughed. "Yep."
Sighing she shook her head, he shrugged. He then turned to head back the way she had come while Lex took flight once more.
The Walls of the City of Dis didn't bar her, but she knew that was as much because of her entire young life being spent amongst the deliberately wicked, the sincerely sinful, and while her faith in Isis told her she no longer had a place amongst them they were not strangers to her.
Nor was she a stranger to them. A call actually went up as she entered. "Hail, Hail! So does another Detton enter the city of Dis!"
That was a concern to her. She had thought, maybe hoped that the lack of resistance to her entrance into Hell was acknowledging the might of her Mistress, but now she wondered if they were welcoming one of her line.
Heresy was a filled much as she expected it to be with it's flaming tombs, but she found as many Catholics as those of other faiths, and it left her to wonder.
What was "heresy"? Even the most dogmatic of faith's would say one needed to find a personal connection to the divine, but just stated that finding the connection required obedience to mortal authority as much as it did to God.
She knew she would find the Simonists far later, so she wondered what their sin was, but she realized that despite Catholicism's many faults the Christian Bible DID have a passage the defined heresy perfectly.
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me."
Mortal authorities would claim God's authority to the point of usurping it, and the Heretics would let them.
Her next bit of real opposition was the minotaur, but she would have expected no less from the guardian of the Circle of Violence.
As a solider, and as a kin-slayer she thought she would be more effected by outer ring of the circle of violence, but there she saw those she would have felt to take up arms against.
Which was where the difference was. Lex fought when she had to, she fought to save others, even when her first violent act was against members of her own family it was to save all those they would have made into victims.
In earlier circles she may have indulged in the vices that consumed them, but for her violence had always be a matter of unfortunate necessity.
If anything it was the most likely reason for her turning on her kin.
The next ring was the forest of the suicides, and while many would feel sympathy she did not.
Alexandra Detton had known, pain, and horror, and despair, but she continued on. If she had given in at those dark times that would have been all she had known. How could she have expected to have risen higher if she rent her soul from her body with that weighing it down?
One would have an easier time overriding gravity.
The inner ring, that of violence against God... had her actually wanting to drag other souls down there. Not to damn them eternally, because even she wasn't that evil, but those who claimed to act at God's behest would do well to see what their pride was preparing them for.
Those who claimed the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was homosexuality needed to see God's punishment for those who broke the divinely imposed bond between guest and host, and more importantly the fates of those who would soundbite God.
Then again, fear of punishment rarely modified behavior past puberty. There would always be those who thought themselves above the law if not the arbiters of it. Those who would rather think her some wicked woman loving woman out to deceive them to better seduce their daughters rather then someone who just wanted to teach them virtues like mercy and kindness.
The wings of Isis carried down to Malebolge where she walked the bridges over it's dark ditches.
The panderers and seducers... much like violence Lex could play on the passions to accomplish her goals, but she never LIKED it, and she certainly didn't make a career of it like those who's willful acts had condemned them to the first Bolgia.
The second Bolgia was filled with flatters, ass kissers, and excrement, and Lex hurried over it as she had little desire for either whatever realm she was in.
The third was for the Simonists, and Lex found their sin doubly distasteful. As clergy personally chosen by a divinity she was disgusted by those who would auction off divinely granted gifts, but also the fact that they did so for mortal gains.
That she was able to look down into the ditch and see faces that had just recently been on the US Terrorism watch list... to sell God's favor for mortal gains was awful, but for those mortal gains to be unleashing violence on the innocent...
It left her wondering if new punishments would be created for new sins, but Lex reminded herself that Hell would tailor itself to them, and they would be facing the righteous furry of the God they claimed to represent.
Dante's work may have been heavily influenced by his Catholic upbringing even as the Pope of his age proved that titles gave no promise of purity, nor guarantee of Glory, but his work showed with no doubt that Hell was built of the guilty, for the damned, and not only did those who deserved to be here belonged here, they reaped the full harvest of what they had sewn.
The fourth Bolgia was for sorcerers... and Lex admittedly had trepidation as she approached it, until she found as many men of science as she did men of magick.
There were rules, even to magick, and this was for those who would defy them. Agrippa HAD ruled magick one of the sciences, and this ditch proved him right, even as it showed those who would use science to elevate man to the throne of God, to rewrite the laws of the universe to be more pleasing unto them were culpable for the results of their actions, even if they would deny the very notion of guilt.
At the fifth Bolgia she was expecting the gap to the sixth and had already called back Isis' wings, but she had to admit a moment of morbid fascination as she watched the corrupt politician's boil in pitch.
That she would have sworn she could recognize some faces recently passed from the living world continuing to confirm Hell's place as proof of an orderly universe.
That one looked like a former vice president wondered just what trouble the man had been having with his "heart" back when he was still in office.
She saw the sixth Bolgia from the air, and looked down on the hypocrites in both literal and figurative ways.
For all of Lex's faults she did as she said and said as she did, and those who did otherwise drove Lex crazier then most any anything else.
Villains were villains, but if they could at least admit that they did awful things rather then trying to justify them then Lex could respect them even as she went for the kill.
The serpent pit of the seventh Bolgia was glided over without bothering to touch down. The thieves deserved what they got. Lex had appropriated resources in the field, but those could be called spoils of war as much as theft, but either way it didn't need any real explaining to Lex that there was a difference between taking, and taking what one needed to survive.
Where the problem arose was that "need" could be used ambiguously enough that a choice for a moments survival could be stretched into a lifetime of taking rather then work.
The eighth was filled with false counselors, and Lex knew that calling their sin subtle belied it's truly horrific nature. She knew that some terror leaders had earned their place amongst the Simonists by selling the Grace of God while they were bartering the will of God for land or political gains they still thought they were righteous, the ones she saw here knew they were sending their "martyrs" to Hell.
Sowers of Discord filled the ninth Bolgia. While change was good far too many were far too ready to kill to get the change they wanted then and there, and while the evolution versus revolution argument was as often used by both those for and against change when it was more about destroying the old then creating the new they charted their course for the ditch over which Lex now hovered.
The tenth was filled with the falsifiers, and Lex got why they were so hated by Heaven. No matter what deity one worshiped they sought to bring people together, in tribes, in villages, cities or states. The gods wanted humanity to grow, and just like hospitality was a sacred lynch pin of creation those who would undermine the growth of humanity earned a special place.
After clearing Malebolge her eyes caught the sight of what looked like towers, but she knew were giants who circled her destination, the final circle, Treachery, the ninth circle, and the place where she knew the truth of Ari Haswari awaited.
Cocytus, the bottom of Hell, where traitors were frozen in the ice according to their sins.
She had dropped straight down to the very center, to Judecca where betrayers of their lords and benefactors were consigned to the ice.
Or at least they had been.
Lex was now standing over a hole in the ice, and she was not alone. She saw what looked like her friend Ziva David.
While most ice in Cocytus was formed by the tears from where Lucifer wept his rage, imbedded to his waist in the ice she knew that Ari's punishment had been special, while Hell had no claim over the soul of Ziva David they had the rights to the wages of Ari's sins, and that included his sister's tears.
So while the image was not Ziva it was Ziva enough for Ari to know he was frozen in the tears his sister had shed over his acts.
At first the image was content to fill the hole with fresh tears, but suddenly it went from mindless automaton to creature with life, and and with yellow eyes, and David's most playful of smiles that was now directed at her.
"Lex! You are early! Of course we both know you are just visiting." Seeing Lex take a breath the Yellow Eyed Ziva nodded while waving her hand. "Yes, yes, I am not really Ziva, but you know that I am close enough that not even Abigail could tell the difference."
The Yellow Eyed Ziva left that sentence trailing suggestively, but Lex countered right away. "Unless she looked in your eyes."
In response the woman closed her eyes, and when she opened them they were Ziva's brown. She then closed and opened them again and they were back to yellow.
"Not a problem. I could be the Ziva that even Abby would swear was the real deal, but that Abby would never have to know about."
Fuck! Lex hated dealing with demons! Yeah, okay she had a bit of a thing for Ziva, and a good part of the reason she had a thing for Ziva was that she could tell Ziva had a bit of a thing for her, and while neither was dishonorable enough to act on it, or even say it out loud they both knew it was there.
The Yellow Eyed Ziva stepped even closer, her voice becoming soft. "I could be even better, and none of it would break your so-called code."
That got Lex scowling and the demon rolled those yellow eyes. "Come now, you are the first Detton to hurt another Detton since... ever really, and I've known your line since it was founded back in Babylon."
The Yellow Eyed Ziva sighed wistfully. "Babylon... boy did I have some times there. Still! Would you like to see them? They've been waiting for you. It could give you a glimpse of what is to come."
Lex met those yellow eyes with her own blue-green, daring the creature to dispute Isis claim on her soul, it did not.
"Okay, okay, your soul has already been claimed, but is that not even more reason to see them while you can?"
"They're all here?"
The Yellow Eyed Ziva feigned shock. "So you CAN speak?" She then smiled and shook her head. "No, no I understand. You know to watch your words with my kind... actually I have always enjoyed dealing with your family, real professionals. So many... it is not even lambs to slaughter as much as it is lemmings spotting a cliff. Still, would you like to see them?"
She knew she probably shouldn't, she knew it was a bad idea, but Lex still followed as the Yellow Eyed Ziva turned and walked outwards from Judecca.
When they stopped Lex knew they were where betrayers of family were frozen in the ice so only their faces shown. Faces that now recognized her, and showed it when they started shouting.
"How could you do this to us!"
"We were your family!"
"You should be here! Not us!"
The Yellow Eyed Ziva looked at her and shrugged. "Family! Can't live with em, so what other option is there besides burning them alive?"
Then another voice shouted above them.
It was unheeded.
"Alexandra, you still have your magick, but we do not. Please silence them so I may speak."
Even the Yellow eyed Ziva seemed curious to see what her ancestor wanted to say.
Lex looked fiercely at her family, at those who had bore her, and raised her, kept her safe, and taught her, and felt almost as cold as the ice they were frozen in.
"Perhaps I earned a place here, but that it is YOU in the ice says perhaps not! Now be silent or I will see what your many lessons could let me add to Hell's torments!"
Ziva's Yellow Eyed doppelganger snickered. "Well now you ARE trying to turn me on."
Lex ignored that as she drew closer to her ancestor, who started to speak. "You are more right then you know Alexandra. You are NOT the betrayer, but the betrayed"
Shouts from the rest of her family started up again, and Lex went the simple route of telekinetically snatching up water from Lucifer's freshest of tears and dumping it over their exposed faces.
The shouts of rage turned to sputters, and fearful calls, but they quickly fell silent, and her ancestor continued.
"Look at us Alexandra, truly look. At HOW we are frozen."
Unseen over her shoulder those Yellow Eyes narrowed.
Lex however stepped back and looked at the formation her family was frozen in, and saw an order, a pattern that looked to her like the order people might stand in if they were performing a ritual, but a ritual of such complexity that even she could only grasp the edges of it.
"Yes, yes you see! The founder of our line lies at the bottom of the ice, but that is by their own design! We are here because of his betrayal, and our mirroring of it. The ceremony that you disrupted would have bound you to him, would have commit your power to his design."
"SILENCE!" This time it was the Yellow Eyed Ziva speaking. "Damn Penitents!"
The Penitent Ancestor spoke again, the time with greater urgency. "He would have unleashed the Fallen Angels, and they still seek you to do so! Flee Alexandra flee this place!"
Training kicked in and Lex dropped to a knee, allowing her to hurl the shape of Ziva over her shoulder, telling her that while the form may have had a link to Ziva because of her brother Ari it couldn't touch Ziva's true core as it didn't show any of her training or reflexes, but was still a confining physical form.
Isis wings were right there and her legs coiled and released as the leap turned to flight. She wasn't safe yet however as a quick look over her shoulder showed that the Yellow eyed Ziva had sprouted the archetypical bat wings and was pursuing.
Though she had a lead, it wasn't holding, but as they ascended the circles she noticed an exodus happening beneath them, a tidal wave of souls all trying to rush the surface, behind her she heard the Yellow Eyed Ziva switch to a hover.
Pausing herself she hovered and their eyes met.
"Another time Lex."
With that the Yellow Eyes went back to brown, and then the shell in the shape of her friend vanished.
Still flying she allowed the sense of urgency the tide of damn souls raised in her to speed her forward.
In Lust she found a familiar face amongst the throng. "Lex!"
"John!" She swooped down and grabbed him under his arms. "What happening?"
"The Devil's Gate in Wyoming is opened!"
She looked at him, seeing the glowing portal in the distance, seeing souls climbing over one another in their rush for the Gate. She looked at him another time.
"Don't make me regret this!"
He smiled. "You won't!"
She flew upward, she couldn't fly him all the way because her soul had another route back to the world of the living, but she dropped him near the head of the line where the man immediately started fighting his way out.
Swooping back she touched down on the deck of Isis Barge where the goddess was waiting for her.
Looking to her goddess her confusion was evident and Isis took her in her arms to comfort her. "Yes my Priestess, your family had been striving to release the Fallen Angels, the pledging that they would have had you undergo would have established a link with you and your peers that your earliest of ancestors would have been able to use to free them."
Lex felt herself tremble. "It's that late in the game?"
Isis kissed her brow.
She awoke with a gasp, but to her surprise Lex did not feel the confinement she expected from the body bag.
Instead she felt arms around her, lifting her to sit upright as a warm body held her, and without even thinking she clung to it.
"It's okay Lex, it's okay. You're back."
While she had reflexively nuzzled into the warmth of the other body, the female body, at the woman's neck she pulled back to see who it was holding her.
Which is who it was. She nodded as she pulled the oxygen mask off of Lex's face. After doing so she rubbed Lex's bare shoulders, and Lex found herself savoring the contact, but she still had questions.
"What are you doing here?"
Oracle bit her lip. "I don't know.. I just felt the need to come down here, and I found you struggling against the body bag. So I helped you out."
Lex slumped her shoulders. "Thanks for that."
Willow's hands were still on Lex's shoulders as she bit her lip and looked around the room. "Did you bring any clothes down here with you?"
The response was obviously confused. "Why would I do that?"
The smile Willow gave in response was accompanied by the red head shaking her head. "No reason, but your trance went so long that your body's temperature is too low. We need to get you dressed to get you warmed up."
With that Willow slid her arm around Lex's waist to help the nude witch to her feet. As that happened Lex couldn't help but comment.
"I must be loosing my touch, normally talk of warming me up would come with cheap lines about raising my body temperature or least the sharing of body heat."
Though Lex could stand she didn't seem to hesitate to lean into the support Willow was offering. So she kept offering it as she helped the other witch into the hallway. "You're in no shape for that Alexandra Detton."
"I'm always ready for that! Watch your tongue Rosenberg!" Though her words were protesting, Lex said them with a smile.
Enjoying the banter Willow came right back. "You are NOT in any shape for that. So I will have to watch my tongue and just settle for the eye candy."
As they continued they found the Lock scrambling, with an urgency even their missions didn't usually have, and the two women realized they must have a lead on Tara.
Willow was obviously torn between wanting to take care of the weakened woman leaning up against her, and wanting to get to her Temple to take her place as the Lock's digital diviner.
The woman leaning up against her made the decision.
"Let's go Willow. There will be plenty of people in that room so it should be warm enough, and everyone there will have already seen me naked, and if not we might as well get it out of the way."
Lex was grinning at that, and Willow didn't try to stop herself from grinning as well as the two of them made their way to the control room, the Temple of the Oracle.
By the time they got there however the room was basically vacant. While Willow's "acolytes" were hard at work, with McGee sitting at Willow's altar/console everyone else had obviously gotten the info and were scrambling to act on it.
Faith and Gibbs however were still there and Gibbs took instant notice of his pale and shaking witch. Taking off his jacket her laid it over her shoulders, and once she slid her arms into the sleeves he handed her his coffee while guiding her into a chair.
She nodded. "Thanks Boss."
Gibbs, being Gibbs didn't bother with the pleasantries."What did you find?"
Taking a deep drink of the warm liquid Lex then spoke. "Well, I'm pretty sure I saw Dick Cheney's soul in Hell. Which means that he was evil enough to get an early entry, and a demon is now riding around in the skin of a former VP."
The entire room stopped what they were doing and looked at Lex. She shrugged. "I said 'pretty' sure."
Faith hand waved that idea aside. "Put it on the 'To Do' list. Did you do anything down there that could be responsible for a ritual finally being able to pick up Tara?"
The magician shook her head slowly. "I learned a lot, and I mean a LOT, and not just about Ari, but nothing that I can think of that would have had us able to pick her up. Oh! Devil's Gate! Southern Wyoming! A TON of evil souls pouring out of it."
McGee spoke up from the altar as he handed it over to Willow. "We've got bizarre weather phenomena that kicked off from there less than an hour ago, and reports of strange black clouds over seventeen cities."
That got a growl out of Faith. "Again, to do list. We got a hit on Tara, in the Middle East in the desert near Syria. More specifically at the compound of one Matan Enmy, sole survivor of a oil family, and 'suspected' financier of international terror this guy seems to love the money we give him, and hate us in the same breath."
Lex cocked her brow. "Ari's sugar daddy. Now when you say 'suspected' do you mean we don't have enough proof? Or does his oil give him enough clout that high ups in the government are shielding him?"
Faith's reply was instant. "Our government ignore terror ties in order to keep up the supply of oil? Surely you jest. It's why were keeping it as in house as possible, and as reliant on the Israelis if not. A plausibly deniable death for this fucker is just peachy with them, and after our saving of Director David from agents of the Returned Martyr they're happy to take our word for it on the connection and back our play."
Lex sat up straight. "When do we leave?"
That got an instant, but sad, head shake from Faith. "Lex, you're out. I KNOW you want to be there, but walking is an issue for you right now, let alone running or fighting, and since I'm sure Sam or Ducky, or both will say it, the bed rest they can prescribe will be an order. Just like it will be for Tara when we get her back."
Lex's scowl softened into a small, sly, smile. "You're saying I'll be on bed rest with Tara?"
Faith rolled her eyes. "Yeah, you'll be just fine. It's going to be me, Gibbs team minus you... and we NEED to get you guys a team name, the Twins, a dozen black suits, half a dozen war witches, and half a dozen slayers. We'll be going in with half the numbers, but more then double the fire power."
"We're hammer the fine points in the air, but the Twins and I will parachute in and take out sentries. If we can get air support from the Israelis, we'll signal them to take out the main gate, otherwise the Twins and I will demo it ourselves. Gibbs will have the main force who will enter and engage the enemy."
"The Twins and I will be after Tara and Ari in that order while the main force will be there to kill anyone who gives them a valid reason to do so."
Willow looked up from her keyboard. "Shouldn't you find Tara first?"
Faith frowned. "It's not that easy Red. Finding her is one thing, but we need to be able to get her out as well, and to do that we'll need an attacking force, to take out those who would get in the way."
As Willow nodded her understanding Slayer continued.
"We clean house, extract with Tara, and then level the place. Once we leave I don't want one brick on top of another."
Not only did Lex obviously understand, but she also wholeheartedly agreed, but she still had a question. "Ari?"
Slayer scowled. "I want him dead, I mean I really want him dead, but he's more pawn then player, and he's got intel we need. So I need him able to talk. That said, he needs at least one ear to hear, and a mouth to speak, besides those two and a pulse we'll do what we have to to take him down."
By the time they had reached the Israeli airbase it had been nearly night so by the time they had met with their hosts and finished their last moment plans they had been able to progress right to the mission.
They were now on the ground, the chutes had been buried and Slayer and the Twins were closing on the compound. Theoretically the Twins should have their own code names, but due to the unique nature of their gift when you were on an op talking to one was as good as talking to both, and their unique nature made it better to simply let them know what you needed the pair to do and let them pick which one would actually carry out which task.
Eerie for some, but deadly to the Lock's enemies, and the Lock had the rule of not arguing with success.
Reaching the tall stone wall Slayer knelt down and cupped her hands, and the Twins darted forth for a boost.
First one, and then the other dropped a combat boot into Slayer's hands before she propelled them upward.
While they all had phenomenal jumping the wall was quite high. High enough that one hand her hand down for Slayer to catch when she made her leap.
They had positioned their leap to put them directly under a camera, and as Slayer leapt up and yanked the cable wiring the camera into the power source in the wall the Twins slipped out and one grabbed the arms of the sentry meant to keep an eye on the camera's blind spots while the other slapped her free right hand over the man's mouth while the left hand drove a black bladed combat knife into his kidney.
All of it done in a move that would have required not only choreography between the Twins, but their victim as well, if it weren't for their unique ability.
As Slayer cat foot to the next camera the other two shadowed her, and repeated variations of their maneuver on the other sentries.
One simply had his hands held by one of the identical blonds as another strangled him with a garrote while another hand a kick delivered to the back of his knee by one sister so the other could have a better angle to put her full body weight into breaking his neck.
No matter what the cause of death their bodies were quickly and quietly dumped on the outside of the wall, to land in the soft sand below, because at this point in the operation, if a hostile got to look outside the walls their penetration was over and the assault would begin early.
It was four cameras, one at each compass point, and eight sentries to walk the walls connecting them. A good lay out by any standard, but it lost a great deal when up against the ladies superhuman nature, but even then they nearly lost it early in.
Just after they had broken then neck of number three number four, possibly having heard the pop had come investigating, with his rifle up.
Considering the height of the wall the Twins had decided to use their environment, but rather then simply tossing the man over the edge, and hoping his landing was fatal his rifle was grabbed by one sister who pulled it so the beaded strap running from the barrel to stock of what looked like one of the Chinese knock offs of the famous Kalashnikov design wrapped around the man's neck.
The other gave him that hard push over the edge, which broke the man's neck like an old fashioned hanging.
Then they let go, and while the actions were still as silent as one could hope to be perhaps enough moonlight had been disturbed by their movement to make another pair of guards on the opposite wall take notice.
The Twins were occupied with disposing of the fourth guard so they couldn't see as the two men squinted in the dark, but Slayer could.
Her hands were instantly filled with the throwing knives that they carried for kills at a distance that still had to be utterly silent, rather then simply suppressed like one got with gunfire.
One quite literally caught a carbon steel blade between his eyes, while his partner got his in a mouth that was opening to speak, but instead had sharpened steel driving into the back of his mouth, through his brain stem, and out the back, imbedded to the very hilt.
Happily her throws still carried enough kinetic force that when they lodged in the bodies they had enough energy left to make the now slack forms fall backward off the wall and to the outside.
By the time her two throws were off the Twins had gotten to the last two sentries and contented themselves with almost identical motions as the stabbed they two men in the throat.
With the cameras disabled and the sentries dead they had their quiet entry, as well as opened the way for Gibbs and company to get as close as possible to the gates before their Israeli allies would turn the gate to scrap metal, and a generous portion of the stone wall to gravel.
They still had work to do however, as the money of Matan Enmy had been put to good use, and there were more security measures to be circumvented. Well, more cameras to be precise, but that made sense since the blowing winds and sand would make most other options implausible outside, but cameras could still view their images through plexiglass shielding.
Since they needed to move however they needed their power cords to have some give, and with the eight guards on the walls now taken out they had another eight guards on the grounds and cameras on the four inside corners that had been too low for them to take out silently from the walls, but were at just the right height to catch activity in the compound.
Another half dozen cameras rounded the electronic eyes to ten, but while their skills were up to the challenge it wasn't necessary, part of the point of the assault force was to pull every eye to them while the penetration team got inside.
A spy satellite fly over had given them a thermographic picture of the scene, and not only had they been able to rule out the out buildings, that were now marked for destruction by Gibbs and his attack force, but they had found only one stationary heat signature.
Both stationary as well as prone, sometimes entirely, sometimes a more seated sort of position it showed no signs of walking, or standing, never left the room, and the only time it was upright it was assisted to what looked like the bathroom.
Slayer's gut agreed with everyone's assessment. That's where they would find Tara, and that's where they were making a beeline for, the main house, basement.
First however they needed to get to the main house. Having marked their paths from the wall Slayer actually leapt up, and grabbed the roof of the nearest outbuilding.
Drawing her Mk. 23 she stated handing out head shots. While Gibbs was ready, willing, and able to charge the gate, she wanted to break up those who would actually be ready to receive them.
Once three quarters of a clip was burned she was racing to the main house, past the men she had just killed, and her boot was the one that sent the door crashing open, off it's hinges, and hitting the wall across the room from the entry.
Yeah, damn it, she was wound up, but Tara was close! Faith could FEEL it!
There were three men in the room, and while they technically had even odds at three to three, none of them were Tara so none of them mattered, and Slayer's sound suppressed Mk. 23 had blurred from one target to the next, head shots.
Though the suppressed shots would have been difficult to distinguish even one room away, but they had made their entry, and now they needed their distraction.
Keying her radio she spoke through her throat mic, two words, as she ejected the empty magazine from her pistol and fed a fresh one before holstering it. "Knock, knock."
The jet fighters passage in broke the sound barrier, but before that shock wave could hit their missiles did and the whole complex shook with the force of the blast.
Normal human reaction would be to want to look out and see what happened, and a pair of the Returned Martyr's followers did just that, but instead they saw the smaller explosions coming from the M-4 Ranger Carbines in the hands of the three slayers.
None of whom bothered to look outside. If Gibbs and his people had any trouble they could signal the three for aid over the radios they were all wearing, but otherwise the now blown open front wall and the rest of their compound was up to the attack force.
The penetration team had their own objectives. The rescue of Tara Maclay, and the capture of Ari Haswari.
The Twins followed close behind, but they didn't bother to truly try to keep up with Slayer, but they got that, she was a woman in love, and the one she loved was in danger.
Which in effect turned the already fearsome solider known as Slayer into something more akin to a force of nature.
Her weapon was the almost cliched extension of her arm, and while the Twins still were engaging and firing upon their own targets Slayer left even their enhanced reflexes feeling slow.
Even their accuracy felt second rate as while they always hit vitals Slayer was splattering every head that was presented to her.
They both wondered what the last images that raced through those heads must have looked like. An angel come to punish them for their sins? Or a demoness to drag them to their true "reward"?
Mostly however they just kept up and tried their best to back their commander's play. Then their commander stopped, holding up their hand. "Wait! I smell her!"
They already knew that as the Founder of the modern line Faith's abilities weren't even measured on the same scale as theirs, but with Tara in danger she seemed to be running 110% of normal.
Still, taking a deeper breath, they thought they could smell her too, and fanned out to look.
Terrorism was an undeniable fact of life in the twenty first century, it had become a fact back in the twentieth so Tara had grown up with that knowledge an undeniable part of her life.
Sure it hadn't been part of her day to day existence in Still Water Pennsylvania, apart from her father and brother's own home grown version, but some had actually used it as a virtue of small town life, that you were safe from such madness as long as you stayed there.
Again, unless your family considered fear as useful a motivator as any middle eastern fanatic.
Tara still grew up with those tales as part of her cultural heritage, some she knew were true, some she knew where made up, and some she was pretty sure were getting confused in her mind with movies she had seen.
She was alone, a hostage, without even a fully working body available to her. Fear was not only natural, but inevitable, and with her spending all her time alone it was only natural for her mind to wander, and her mind wandered to those fragments of facts, and recollections, and what she knew was likely just her imagination getting the best of her.
The problem was that even if her imagination was getting the best of her, she couldn't underestimate the danger she was in. Alone, disabled, surrounded by fanatics who's image of a woman's "proper" place would probably be extreme even for her father.
Her only ally was the man who had put a pistol to her head and forcibly taken her from all she knew, who had likely masterminded the situation to be just as it was to help induce Stockholm Syndrome in her.
The fact that Faith would be tearing the world apart looking for her was a given, but it was a big world, and she was just one woman in it. Though she would never doubt her darling would ever give up looking for her she would have to be ready to go it alone, and to go the long haul.
One advantage would be that she would keep exercising her legs as best she could as she healed so she could restore her mobility to make an escape possible.
The disadvantage would be that the longer she was missing the more frantic her Slayer would get. Tara worried about how that could lead Faith to make a mistake, she just worried about the emotional ringer her lover would be going through, she worried if that was part of Ari's plan to return Faith to her dark path, she actually worried more about Faith then she did about herself.
Still, wasn't that what love was?
Then she heard, and felt the explosion, and she couldn't help contain her grin. Yes, it was a big world, and yes she was but one woman, but her Darling, Darling Slayer was a VERY determined woman, and while the sedation made it hard to know exactly how long she had been in enemy hands the two to three days she estimated had apparently been enough for Faith to find her.
Though it was entirely possible someone else was attacking her captors she swore she could hear Faith's voice in her mind, or more likely her heart saying.
"Hold on Babe! I'm comin!"
She KNEW she could hear the lesbian version of the song that would go "My girlfriends back and you're going to be in trouble."
Gibbs had wanted to be part of the penetration team. Tara was his family, and she's in there, and he wanted to be the one kicking in the door she was behind and carrying her out of there, but not even on his best day in his fittest of years could he match the physical capabilities of even one of the Twins, let alone the things that they accomplished when they were linked up.
Not to mention Slayer, who was just as motivated as he was, and was graded on a curve all her own.
He did however know flat out man to man warfare, and with the human nature of their enemy that was exactly what they were doing. Which made Gibbs the best man for this task.
Slayer's "Knock, knock" was barely a whisper over his radio, but it set off a roar as the Israeli missiles briefly turned night into day. More importantly it turned the once reinforced gate, as well as the thick stone wall it had been set in to widely scattered rubble.
No order was needed as they all knew that was their signal to attack.
Even before they passed the ruins of the main wall they had blacksuits dropping to one knee to fire disposable rocket launchers at the outbuildings they knew were uninhabited, with essential spots like the motor pool getting two rockets to make sure that avenue of escape was thoroughly closed.
Some might have called the maneuver ruthless, but it was warfare, while some conventions should be followed there was a point when a person was trying to delude themselves to it's bloody nature.
A delusion that could claim their lives, or the lives of their comrades.
Even as enraged as Slayer, and Boss Man himself, were he knew that they would accept honorable surrenders.
He just knew that such a concept was fairly alien to the fanatic mindset of the Jihadist.
It certainly wasn't present in the forces now streaming out of the main house to confront them.
DiNozzo had a preference for the feel of the M-16 design even before coming to the Lock, and was carrying the M-16 with an under slung M-203. It was to his shoulder and the grenade launcher was firing an anti-personnel round at a group that had broken one of the most basic rules of warfare.
Don't cluster too close.
That feeling of security from having allies nearby was never worth the carnage a sufficiently large attack could cause. Whether it was Sun Tzu and his rules on the use of fire in warfare, or Anthony DiNozzo sending a massive cloud of explosively driven, flesh shredding metal.
The assault force on the other hand formed three skirmish lines. Six Blacksuits, three slayers, and three war wizards went left while the same numbers cut right, leaving Gibbs and his three people to take the middle, but in a slightly slack position as the idea was a pincer movement to encircle their enemies and wipe them out.
The fires set off by the airstrike, and fed by their initial rocket attack was providing more then enough light for them so to his left Ziva had taken it upon herself to snipe the floodlights that had fired up as they invaded.
DiNozzo was to his right, but to the outside to keep McGee between himself and Gibbs. While the younger agent had adjusted to his new role at the Lock, as DiNozzo often teased he would always be senior to McGee, and while that often led to behavior had Gibbs literally slapping sense into the back of the head of the senior agent it just as often led to him keeping an eye on the junior agent.
With Gibbs senior to them both he understood the feeling. He had it for all three, but all three knew their jobs and were doing them as they pressed farther into the terrorist stronghold.
Up above them Ari Haswari pulled back before he could be seen, but still speaking quietly to himself.
Behind him the door crashed open to admit the white bearded form of his benefactor Matan Emny. While the man had always spoken lovingly of Jihad his flushed face, heaving chest, and wide fearful eyes were telling Ari the reality wasn't quite as palatable to the oil magnate.
"Martyr! The Americans have found us!"
He couldn't help it, he didn't want to, but he did manage to take the full blown laugh the sentence wanted to elicit and muffle it to large smile.
"Are you sure?"
For a brief moment Matan seemed incredulous, but then he realized that the Returned Martyr was mocking him, and from the ease at which he came to the conclusion it was obviously not first time.
It caused the older man to scowl. "We must flee!"
Ari's smile mellowed, but he couldn't get rid of it completely. "And how would you propose we do that?"
With that Ari stepped close enough to the balcony to point outward without being seen from ground level.
First he pointed to the magnate's helicopter, a flaming ruin, taken out in the initial rocket attack.
He didn't know if Jethro was deliberately throwing his own tactics back in his face, but he liked to think so. Of course Gibbs troops were well trained men and women with a mission while his troops had been fanatics with a taste for bloodshed, and the differences were making themselves obvious.
The Returned Martyr then pointed at the motor pool, also a victim of the initial volley of rockets fired by the soldiers of the Lock before they came inside the walls.
One had actually made sure to hit the large gasoline tank that was used to fuel all the vehicles, so anything that wasn't taken out by what appeared to be a pair of rockets now sat in a pool of liquid fire.
Seeing that had Matan's face twisting in frustration, and then smoothing in resolution, and Ari had to muffle the sigh that knowing what was to come created in him.
Sure enough Matan took a pistol from his hip.
"Then we must fight!"
Ari's mocking smile returned. "When I had the element of surprise I had ninety-five percent causalities, and now..." He made a sweeping gesture with his hand to show how the Lock had already taken the first floor of the manor house, and he knew Matan could hear the sounds of battle echoing upward.
Finally there was just confusion on his benefactor's face.
"Then what should we do?"
Haswari pulled his own pistol, and shot the man twice in the heart. He then dropped the pistol on the man's chest. Reaching the small of his back he dropped a fighting knife on the man's chest he spoke the last words Matan Enmy would hear, at least in the living world.
"We answer for our sins."
The Twins spread out, looking for the origin of Tara's scent, but Slayer stood stock still, taking a deep breath. She then stepped close to the wall in front of her and placed both hands on it. Stepping even closer she put her ear to the wall.
Pulling back she nodded once to herself and drove her fist through the brick wall in front of her. Then rather then delivering a series of punches that would throw debris into the room she used the hole she made to dig her hands in and pull backward.
Bricks were quickly pulled back and piled around her until she had a section wide enough to step through, and as she did she laid her eyes on Tara.
Tara laid her eyes on Faith as well, but those eyes were rather wide, and stunned. "There's a d-door."
The White Witch accompanied the words by pointing to the entryway in question, and as she did so the door came off it's hinges and crashed to the ground as the Twins kicked it in unison, and charged into the room with M-4's up and ready to speak.
The only one who actually spoke was Tara, as she started to recover her wits. "There was a door."
Faith's mind however was filled with nothing but relief as she dashed across the room and took Tara in her arms.
Tara returned the embrace, and didn't move as Faith then pulled back to examine her for any signs of injury. She did however speak. "Darling, Darling. I'm fine. Not as fine as if we were at home right now, but other then being sedated nothing's been done to me."
Faith pulled back, tears trying to form at the corners of her eyes, looking as if she thought Tara might be lying to protect Faith from some horrible truth.
Her woman however just shook her head in the negative and reached up to wipe those tears away.
The gentle motion however triggered them as Faith then did start crying, pulling Tara to her as she did so.
As Tara returned them embrace the Twins pulled back to a respectful distance with one guarding the doorway, and the other guarding the hole in the wall Faith had made.
Though they all knew the sisters slayer hearing would pick up every sound the lovers made it was an obvious attempt to at least give them the illusion of privacy.
It didn't matter to Tara really as she softly rubbed her hands on Faith's back and she kissed the top of the brunette's head.
While it hurt her to see her lover hurting she was happy to see the understandable emotions being expressed as something other then rage.
Suddenly Faith pulled back and looked Tara in the eye. Though there was a brief moment of confusion in her eyes when Faith pressed their lips together and kissed her urgently she understood.
One kiss, turned to two, and two turned to three with Faith pausing each time to make sure she was really there with Tara.
What would have probably been a forth was stopped however as she saw Faith's right hand was bleeding. Unsurprising since it was the hand she had used to punch through a brick wall, but Tara pulled back enough to examine it.
First she reached over and took the water pitcher from the side of her bed and poured the water over Faith's bleeding knuckles to wash away any debris. She then reached over to Faith's web harness and opened the med kit attached to it.
Taking out a roll of gaze she carefully wrapped it around the injured area. Taping it off she brought the injury to her lips and kissed it.
The gentleness of the act brought fresh tears to Faith's face, but also brought a smile.
Seeing Faith was about to reach up and roughly wipe the tears away Tara let go of Faith's hand and used the fingers tips of her own hands to gently wipe the tears away.
She then leaned in and placed a gentle kiss under each eye.
Faith had started to calm down, taking and releasing a breath before standing up.
"Got something of yours."
With those words Faith took off a second pistol belt she was wearing, and Tara recognized it held a Beretta 93-R, she realized it had to be HER Beretta 93-R that she had lost as she was carried from the complex.
Since she was in a seated position she had to lean forward to put it on, but was smiling a she did so, and when Faith leaned in to help her Witch Woman snuck a kiss.
"Thank you Love."
Slayer was smiling as she stood upright.
Her face then twisted in concentration, and Tara knew why.
"Just toss me over your shoulder Love. I'm healed enough to handle it, it wouldn't be the first time, and I always like looking at your ass."
The last part had been said with a grin and Slayer mirrored it as she leaned in to pick Tara up, before she could however they heard both Twins speaking in unison.
At first only one could be seen through the hole that Faith had punched through the wall, her carbine up and pointing at a target outside their line of sight, but soon the other sister could be seen, her weapon up and trained on the same target.
Witch Woman had drawn her pistol, and Faith leaned in to kiss her brow before lifting her carbine up and advancing on the hole.
The sight that greeted her hand her tightening her hands on her rifle, Ari Haswari, hands up, eyes on the ground.
Though she registered that he was obviously surrendering she felt her grip tighten, such that she reminded herself that she could actually break the frame if she exerted all of her slayer strength. Her nostrils flared as her breathing picked up to match her increasing heart rate.
She stalked rather then walked through the hole she had torn in the wall between her and Tara and had her weapon trained on Haswari the entire time.
The Twins were obviously uncomfortable, but didn't seem ready to step in.
His eyes rose to meet hers, and they met over the sights of her M-4, and as his expression calmed her eyes narrowed in hate.
Tara had hobbled up to the hole in the wall of the chamber that had kept her captive. While her Beretta was still in hand it was at her side, while her other hand was supporting her weight against the wall.
Without any hesitation one of the Twins ran to help her.
Using that help Tara drew closer. "Darling, don't. That was his plan all along."
Encouraged when Faith took a deep breath Tara continued. "He wanted to awaken your animalistic side. It seems our role in things to come is not yet complete, and he said you were not where you needed to be."
Slayer then spoke. "So he nabs you to send me over the edge a second time."
Ari just arched his brows, not speaking, but seeming to say something that Tara understood. "He... he never said that Love. He only said that you weren't where you needed to be, and that he was out to awaken your animalistic side."
That caused him to get a full smile, and while the expression made Faith's teeth clench, and fists itch wanting to hit him all four women in the room were regarding Haswari curiously.
Even with that curiosity Faith was scowling. "Hood him, we'll be taking him to an Israeli base and his face would raise questions we don't want to have to bother with."
Slayer had obviously thought of that before coming on the mission because she took off her pack and rummaged in it to reveal a black hood, and shackles for both hands and feet.
Haswari didn't make a sound as he was secured by the Twins, and while that was happening Faith turned to Tara, holding out her pack.
"Put it on."
Tara's brows arched until after she did so Faith turned around and motioned for Tara to climb on her back piggy back style.
Tara complied, but whispered in Faith's ear. "I prefer to be facing you when I wrap my legs around you."
Faith looked over her shoulder with a smile, and the two women shared a kiss. "Soon Babe, Soon, but not soon enough."
Faith then tapped her radio. "Both Targets Located, both recovered intact. We're coming out."
Boss Man's reply was instant, and obviously colored by relief. "Roger that Slayer."
Now that the smoke was clearing on her first larger scale military action as a Lock agent Ziva David found herself with a great appreciation for the Lock's rank and file "blacksuits".
A nick name that came from the black combat uniforms standard issue to ALL of the Lock's field assets they represented a basic truth of the "blacksuit" soldier, they were ordinary people.
Found in their various ops, and in some cases simply found through Willow's computers they were deemed mentally, and morally capable of dealing with the knowledge of the supernatural threats to the world and brought to the Lock to be trained in how to combat them.
In a great many cases they were brought in, trained, and then shipped back out to form smaller units with Slayers and War Wizards that had done the same, to simply watch over various corners of the world, keeping down monster populations, and keeping the Lock informed in case of larger threats developing.
When compared to assets like the War Witches or Slayers their presence seemed almost negligible.
The Slayers... they Slayers are incredible, literally amazing, capable of physical feats that Ziva could never hope to accomplish, and with the Lock's training they became even more impressive.
The problem was they NEEDED the Lock's training. The Slayers... they were hyper. Slayer herself had coined the "Two H's" of "Hungry and Horny" and Ziva still remembered Tony telling her how he and Timothy had been detailed to protect the Baby Slayers in Ari's assault as at their stage in their training they were as much a danger to themselves and the Lock's people as they would be to an attacker.
It wasn't the girls fault certainly. They had phenomenal powers, but they needed training to learn how to control them as not to hurt anyone before they could be trained on how to hurt those who deserved to be.
Yet even with their training the two H's ruled, and even now the six slayers that had been part of their attacking force WERE hyped up. She knew their training would keep them from shooting friendlies, or even civilians if this Matan Enmy employed them, and it was looking like he did not, but they were undeniably hyper.
Of course she was fairly sure none of them were old enough to drink, so their youth probably played it's own part as well.
Then there was the War Witches/Wizards. They too had their own phenomenal abilities, tapping into mystic powers to wield a whole otherworldly arsenal.
As her War Witch teammate Lex had put it they were even progressing to the point where instead of being a band of multiple mystic disciplines from around the world they were starting to form a cohesive whole that was an intermingling of their respective schools.
They were scholars as much as they were soldiers, and as dignified as that sounds that had them swarming all over Enmy's compound to dissemble whatever had shielded the place from the rituals the Lock had been using to locate Tara and add that too to their cohesive whole.
The problem was ALL of them were doing it, and with the Slayer's hyped up and looking for additional fights, and the mystics busy assimilating knowledge no one was focused on maintaining the security of their people in what WAS hostile territory.
At least no one if the Blacksuits hadn't been there to keep watch, and Ziva found herself with a new appreciation for the strong backbone of the force she was now honored to be a part of.
As an armed investigator she was fulfilling her role of taking the site apart to find intel. She knew that it would be filtered for supernatural references and those modified reports would then filter their way back to allied agencies to appease them that the threat of the Risen Martyr had been dealt with, as well as simply the fostering of good will.
Gibbs was also part of the search, but Ziva know "Boss Man" was also living up to his title, directing the troops, and keeping in touch with Oracle at the Lock to make sure no other forces were on their way, or even casting an eye in this direction.
Timothy of "Elf Lord" was focusing on his chosen field of computers and was taking apart the terrorists technical resources. Sometimes figuratively as he stole files, and sometimes literally as he opened up machines that had been damaged in the battle and took out their physical memory to be decoded later at the Lock.
Looking out a window she saw Tony "Bluto" approaching with what looked like an evidence bag.
Since that was no longer really their field Ziva stepped outside to see what was going on.
Getting closer she felt her stomach twist as she recognized the clothes she had seen Tara wearing in the footage of Ari kidnapping her.
Ziva had been held captive herself, and while being a "Filthy Jew" had saved her from some of the torments that could have been inflicted upon her...it ratcheted up some of the images Ziva's experience with hostage situations had put in her mind of what might have happened to Tara.
Yes Slayer had radioed she had found her, and was bringing her out intact, but technically Ziva had been intact when she had been found. The only saving grace to her pondering would be the short time Tara had been held and the long travel time that would have been necessary to get her here.
Still, her stomach was tying up in knots she had thought she had untied in the therapy that the blond in question had made her go to.
It was a notion that made shooting her brother in the head a second time a great deal more palatable.
As she got closer she saw Gibbs was holding it before passing it off to one of their Slayers, who then brought it up to her nose and sniffed it.
"Nothing Sir, it's airtight, I can't smell Witch Woman at all."
Gibbs then turned to a War Wizard, Solomon, who was standing next to Tony.
"But you are certain this is what led us here?"
Solomon nodded. "Absolutely Sir. Our ritual detected a trace of Tara, and we found this outside the wall, outside the shield."
Gibbs supplied the obvious conclusion. "So someone led us here. Recheck EVERYTHING. Make sure this isn't a delayed action trap."
A blacksuit teamed with a slayer and a war witch in six teams to carry out the order while the remaining half-dozen blacksuits kept watch.
While that was happening movement came from inside the house and Slayer, the Twins, and Tara emerged, and those knots started untying.
Tara's eyes were bright, alert, and her expression was much like it had been when Ziva had last seen her before they had taken off to Israel.
She was riding piggyback on Slayer, and with Tara's limited mobility it was probably the best choice since she would have to be carried all the way to the chopper.
All around her Ziva felt the tension that everyone had been carrying release, only to ratchet partially back up at the figure one of the Twins was guarding, tall, thin, but still noticeably athletic he was in shackles with a black hood over his head, but Ziva recognized him immediately.
This was the moment she had been preparing herself for ever since Buffy had confronted her back at Apostate, but nothing could truly prepare her. While the idea of Tara being hurt had her ready to shoot her brother a second time the reality of him now standing there before him had frozen her solid.
It seemed she was not the only one. The rank and file Lock assets just knew him as the man who had attacked their home, and killed their friends, which was more then enough.
To Gibbs and his squad the man was the embodiment of evil until they learned that evil could take on more literal forms in the war the Lock was fighting.
Still, he was her brother, and even knowing all the things he had done, and all the things he had been set to do, he was her brother, and if he hadn't forced the issue by pointing the rifle at Gibbs with the obvious intent to fire she wouldn't have been able to fire upon him.
The paralysis that had fallen upon her was broken by a hand on her shoulder. Looking to the person she saw the understanding int he face of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
She had killed her brother to save his life, and while technically he may have repaid her when he saved her from being framed for the murders of two FBI agents the two still had a bond unique to them.
Seeing Ziva settled herself he nodded once as he stepped forward.
"Good to see you Witch Woman."
Tara smiled at her Uncle. "Good to be seen Boss Man."
Slayer was looking around. "We done here?"
Boss Man looked about as well. "Just about. We can call for extraction now."
He got a nod from Slayer. "Do it."
Ari had been silent the whole time.
Right from when he had been captured, well surrendered himself, to when War Wizard Solomon scanned him mystically, to when Doctor Samantha Finn examined him physically, right up to when he had been put in an interrogation room in the still being repaired first sub-level of the Lock.
He was silent right up until Leroy Jethro Gibbs walked into the room. At the man's entrance Ari Haswari got that arrogant grin almost as trademarked as his niece's lop sided one.
"So Jethro, you finally got me in interrogation. Is it all you had hoped?"
Gibbs, unsurprisingly carrying a cup of coffee in one hand with a file folder in the other, sipped the coffee before answering.
"I never wanted you in interrogation Ari. I wanted you in autopsy. I THOUGHT that would stick."
Haswari laughed at that.
When the man didn't form a verbal comment Gibbs asked the obvious question as he dropped the file on the table between them.
"So! Who brought you back?"
The Returned Martyr was still smiling.
"Didn't you hear? Allah?"
At the reply Gibbs made an obvious show of picking up the folder and reading it.
"So it was Allah who reached down into..." He then made an equally obvious show of mispronouncing the next word.
"Co... coc... coccy."
The smile had vanished from Ari's face.
Gibbs laid the folder flap and tapped a hard finger on the word.
"That's it! Cocytus! Which from my understanding is the bottom of Hell, the place for traitors, and in the bottom of Hell you were in Judecca, the place, for those who betrayed their..."
Again Gibbs made a overdone show of reading the file, this time actually putting on his glasses. "Lord or benefactor."
Looking back up Gibbs took his glasses off and met Ari's eyes, and they were unreadable.
"Now while I've sent my fair share of bastards to Hell I'll admit I don't know much of it's geography, but from how it was explained to me that's LITERALLY Hell's lowest point, and not only were you literally in the deepest, darkest pit of Hell, but even then you STILL warranted some personal attention."
To his infinite surprise when he looked at Ari this time he saw what even he would call regret.
"And I deserved it."
Taking a breath Ari's speaking took on a solemn tone.
"I was ready to kill millions over nothing more then 'Daddy Issues'. I killed a good woman over the same."
That made Gibbs interrupt.
"Yet when you were brought back you went right back to doing what you do best, killing."
Ari smiled at that, but it was a sorrowful one.
"You are partly right Jethro, I did go back to what I did best, but what I do best is betrayal."
Haswari's voice dropped back to it's earlier tone.
"Hell is a interesting place Jethro. To hurt you it has to find the places that can still hurt. Up here when a great many are faced with pain they attempt to shut down to avoid it. Up here that leads to the monster I was..."
With that Gibbs interrupted again.
Only to be started by the sincerity in Ari's eyes when he looked at Gibbs.
"Was. Down there it turns people into literal monsters. The black smoke possessing demons are those who abandoned their humanity to try to escape the pain. To a limited extent it works, but it costs them knowledge of their mortal existence in exchange."
"Then there are those who embrace the pain, embrace the guilt, and in so doing embrace their humanity."
The skepticism was obvious on Gibbs face, and Ari didn't make him have to voice it.
"You are right to doubt me Jethro. I WAS a monster. I killed an innocent woman just to hurt you. You of all people are entitled to doubt me."
Again Gibbs raised an obvious question.
"Then why the attacks?"
"A necessary evil. I couldn't simply surrender to you. You had to CATCH me... call it terms of my release."
"And those killed in the attack?"
Ari's expression grew even more mournful.
"They pledged their lives to protect the Earth, and the information I have for you will do just that."
Haswari shook his head.
"Was not a personal attack against you OR Faith. Dark times are coming Jethro, and Faith needs to stop fearing her dark side. She has conquered her demons. Now she needs to put them to work."
It was obvious Gibbs wanted to protest, but he remembered what the Twins and Tara had said about Slayer's performance in the field when they were rescuing Tara. How the woman seemed to exceed her already incredible abilities.
Putting that aside Gibbs asked his big question.
"Who brought you back Ari? Lex encountered a Yellow Eyed Demon in Cocytus. Was it him?"
The men's eyes met again, and while Ari's eyes seemed to affirm that was who brought him back he didn't speak.
Then Ari closed his eyes, steeling himself. When he opened them again he was speaking loud and clear.
"You must find the Winchesters!"
With that sentence Ari fell from his chair grabbing his heart.
Gibbs instantly realized that whoever brought him back must have not trusted him completely and installed some sort of fail safe and was shouting at the mirror.
"Get medical down here now!"
A smell Gibbs recognized as burning human flesh started to fill the tiny room.
Ari shouted back. "It won't help! You must find the Winchesters Jethro! You will decide it with the Winchesters!"
To Gibbs widening eyes smoke was pouring from Ari's chest at his heart, and after he spoke, the last time actual flames emerged.
"Find the Winchesters Jethro!"
Hawari stood up on last time, and then fell to his knees.
"Ziva, my sister, I am sorry."
Those were his last words as he fell flat on his face and his whole body ignited.
Gibbs got shoved aside as others ran in with fire extinguishers, but even they didn't help as someone shouted. "The fire's magickal! Get help!"
He had left the room to find Ducky rushing there with his medical bag in hand. Gibbs caught the man by the shoulder and shook his head.
First Ducky looked at Gibbs, and then at the smoke pouring from the interrogation room.
Looking up at the camera Gibbs knew that while there was a small staff manning the recording equipment on the other side of the mirror everyone else had been watching from Oracle's temple.
All he could do was shake his head.
Things had settled back down and everyone had adjourned to a conference room to discuss what they meant.
Faith and Tara were sitting at the head of the table, and holding hands. They might not have normally indulged in protracted displays of affection at meetings, but under the circumstances no one commented.
Gibbs was there with his people, and with that including Ducky and Jimmy, Sam and Cameron were also there. Lex was present with her team at this point, but still pale from her journey to the Abyss.
Riley was near the head of the table with him on Faith's right and Sam on Riley's.
Willow was there typing away on her laptop as she sat to Tara's left.
Scooby Squad was there as well with the Twins rounding out the assembly.
It was Gibbs who was speaking.
"This is Ari Haswari we are talking about here people. By his own words his greatest talent was betrayal. Now we're supposed to simply believe him?"
One of his own team, the War Witch Lex, was the first to respond.
"What he described happening to him is an established thing Boss. They are called 'Penitents'. While most souls in Hell just have that 'Sorry I got caught.' mentality the Penitents are known. It was a Penitent ancestor of my own that gave me the intel that my family was working to unleash the angels that fell back during the War in Heaven."
Faith then cut in.
"And apparently you're still needed for that?"
The Black Witch frowned.
"Research is ongoing, but it looks like."
At Slayer's nod the main conversation continued.
The second response came from Gibbs own right hand man, Anthony DiNozzo.
"Boss, I hated the guy too, but dying to deliver info does give it some heavy credibility."
To Gibbs dismay the entire room seemed to feel that dying to deliver intel made a strong case that the intel was good.
So he countered with an understandable line of thought.
"Just because Ari was willing to die to deliver it doesn't mean it was any good."
Seeing he had their attention he continued.
"It's looking like this Yellow Eyed Demon..."
"Azazel. Willow and I hit the books, and were just about positive it's Azazel, demon prince of the Air."
Gibbs nodded once.
"Okay, this Azazel is looking like the one that brought Haswari back, but when he did so he installed a fail safe because he seemed to know Ari was going to betray him."
His Witch then sighed.
"Actually Boss. I think it HAD to be real. That Azazel NEEDED Ari to betray him."
Lex looked over to Willow, and the two women nodded at each other before Lex continued, actually wringing her hands before reaching behind her for a book she set on the table, opening to a section she had bookmarked. When she then led in and read.
"Betrayer of heart, of home, of man, and of God, in his last betrayal so shall another lock be opened."
With the whole room focused on her Lex answered the question everyone had.
"On Lucifer's Cage."
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