Title: Self Delusion
Series Order: 7
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven, NCIS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CSI: Miami, Teen Wolf
Relationship(s): No Pairings, Gen
Warnings: Character Bashing, Death of a Major Character, Other trigger warnings
Summary: The world didn’t stop when they made their escape. For those left behind there are many questions…and for some, there are consequences.
Beta: The amazing Edronhia 🙂
PART I – MAGNIFICENT 7
Vin was cleaning the rifles he had used on the range that day when he felt a presence at the entry way. He knew who it was, but he just kept cleaning. This was his space and his meditation. Cowboy could wait until he was damn well done with his tasks. There had been two training groups through here today, and two more yet to come; Vin was more concerned with making sure everything was set for them than what Larrabee was stewing about now. The man had attempted to draw Vin back to his team three times so far, with no luck.
It took another thirty minutes before Vin stood, satisfied with a job well done. Chris Larrabee stood silently in the doorway waiting to be acknowledged, frustration clear on his face and in his body language.
“Well, Cowboy?” Vin began, “You here to try, again, to get me back — in which case you can just turn around and leave — or is there something else I can do for you?”
Larrabee’s frown morphed into a scowl of displeasure. He was unused to being disobeyed by those he considered his team, and in his mind Vin Tanner was still a member of Team Seven. “You still haven’t explained why.”
“Was there a question in there somewhere?” Vin checked the clock to be sure how much time he had to knock his head against this particular brick wall again before the next class showed up.
“You know damn well there was, so why you don’t you answer it already!” the man practically growled in frustration. “How many damn times do I have to come over here and ask it?”
“Well, considering you haven’t actually asked it at all? At least once. I’d think I deserve at least that much respect, Cowboy.” Vin didn’t shy away from the stare down Chris was attempting to intimidate him with. “You ever think this might be part of the problem? This whole ‘I’m owed’ attitude you got going on? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya’, I’m sure as hell tired of it. I’m not some gun that you can drag out when you need someone dead, and then be ignored and forgotten the rest of the time. You go and hide in your office, pretend the bullying and other stupid shit the others do isn’t happening out there with your door closed, use your tragedy as an excuse —“ Chris’s face turned to stone, but damn if the man didn’t need to hear all of this. “Don’t deny it. You have that grief wrapped around you like a bedroll on a cold night out on the trail, and you use it as an excuse for every damn thing. To keep people away, for your piss poor attitude, for anything.”
Chris made a move as if to strike Vin, but Vin moved out striking distance. “Don’t you even try and touch me, Larrabee. Go on, get. I have a class in ten minutes.”
Chris just stood there for another minute, still trying to stare down his former teammate to no avail. Finally, he stalked away.
A week later Vin once again had a visitor. This visit went much the same as the last, with Vin laying a few home truths on Chris’s head and Chris walking off in a huff. It did not lend any desire to forgive the man, or credence to his sincerity to fix the problems of the team. It seemed to Vin that the man in black just wanted things to go back to the way they were — where he could ignore all the issues of the team, drown himself in drink and grief, and then get on with the business of taking down the bad guys.
But that didn’t work for Vin, and if this pattern held it still wouldn’t work for him in the future. He thought he had found a home with Team Seven but this training gig was blowing his mind. Passing on his skills, not having anyone else’s life in his hands — this was doing his heart and mind some real good. He was able to go home at the same time every day, help out his neighbors. Heaven knows the neighborhood kids could use his newly reliable schedule and their parents considered it a godsend.
Yes, he owed Chris. But there was a limit to how much of his life he would sign over to a man for one good deed. It was one hell of a helping hand he put out for him — on the flip side, Vin had put his life and career on the line for Chris as well, time after time. This attitude being put forth, as if Vin would always owe him and should stick with the team even though he would be miserable. But how could he trust them? Would they eventually turn on him like they did to Ez?
The more Vin thought about it, the more he was settled on not returning to the field. He hadn’t realized how much he had isolated himself with the team until he started interacting with the rest of the agents in the building through these training seminars. Thankfully, Judge Travis would be having someone else run Seven’s training so he wouldn’t be put in such an awkward position.
Eventually, as Vin knew would happen, Buck took a turn at trying to convince him — or guilt trip him. This was followed by an attempt by Josiah, J.D. and finally Nathan. Vin ignored each and every one of them as not one word that came out of their mouths rang true or sincere.
One morning Vin walked into the training room to find Judge Travis waiting for him.
“Good morning, son. I think it’s time we talk about your options.”
Vin always liked that the Judge got straight to the point of the matter. “Yes, sir.”
“Do you want to return to your team?”
“No, sir. I find that I’m enjoying this work and would like to keep doing it. Is there a problem I should know about?”
“Not with you, Mr. Tanner,” the Judge reassured him. “Your former team is having a very hard time filling in the holes left by your and Mr. Standish’s departure. However, the rest of the agents have found your tenure in your new position to be helpful and would like it to be permanent.”
The tension he’d been holding fell from his shoulders upon hearing the news. Still, there was an issue with the team constantly harassing him about not re-joining them. Maybe moving to a new location would be best. Or maybe the Judge would have a solution he hadn’t thought of.
“I would love to keep on doing what I’ve been doing, sir, but I don’t think I can keep on doing it anywhere near the team. I don’t think they are going to stop with this guilt tripping business. I mean, I’d hate to leave my neighborhood, they really do need me, but I have to do what’s best for me, too.”
“Well said, young man. Why don’t you come upstairs and we can look into where might be a good fit for you? Because I agree, it might be best if you get away from them.”
PART II – NCIS
“Young man, return my phone immediately!”
“No, Dr. Mallard. You are going to sit there and you are going to listen. For once, you are going to listen to someone else speak,” Jimmy Palmer said, his heart pounding with adrenaline. Never in all his time here at NCIS did he think he would be in opposition to Dr. Donald Mallard.
“You are supposed to be my mentor, my teacher, you know? I used to think of you as someone of morals and high standing.” He couldn’t help his voice cracking on that last bit, but who cared at this point? “But I can’t think of you like that anymore. All I see is a very sad man with his head so far stuck up his ass, it’s unbelievable. You honestly are brainwashed by that has-been Gibbs, aren’t you?”
“What are you talking about? Jethro has done nothing wrong here except look out for his subordinate, ungrateful as he is.”
“Nothing wrong! Nothing wrong! Unbelievable. Gibbs has you so wrapped around his finger and steeped in the gospel of Leroy Jethro Gibbs that you’re breaking your oaths constantly without thought and you think he’s done nothing wrong — that you’ve done nothing wrong. What the hell, Doctor? How do you still have your license?” At this point Jimmy was pacing angrily across the floor, unable to stay still. “How many times have you discussed Tony’s medical state with him without Tony’s consent? Hmm?”
“Jethro has a right to know, he is Anthony’s medical proxy.”
“No, he is not.” Jimmy waited a moment for that bit of information to sink in. “I have held medical power of attorney since Gibbs went on his little Mexican vacation, Ducky. And you have not been listed as his personal physician since then either. Yet, you have violated your oaths, even when Tony has specifically asked you to keep information to yourself, just because Gibbs decided that his rules supersede the law.
“And let’s not forget that Tony just now requested the same exact thing and your first thought was to completely ignore his wishes yet again and go speak with Gibbs. Because of course, Tony doesn’t matter, does he? Only Gibbs.” Jimmy shook his head in disgust. “You are supposed to be a forensic psychologist, but you are utterly incapable of seeing past any of Tony’s masks. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad.”
“This is all utter rubbish, Mr. Palmer.”
Jimmy sighed, knowing that he was just wasting his breath on the deaf. It was time he found a new mentor.
Heading to the computer, he quickly typed up his resignation and printed it out, sending a digital copy to HR as well. Seeing that it had been enough time for Tony to escape, he exited autopsy and headed to HR to see what else needed to be done and to make sure he could exit this hellhole without the two weeks notice. There was no way it would be safe for him to stay in the building or anywhere near the Cult of Gibbs when things blew up.
If he happened to still have Ducky’s phone, that was too bad.
Secretary of the Navy Philip Davenport sat across from Director Leon Vance in extreme agitation and the conversation hadn't even started yet.
"Special Agent DiNozzo has been reassigned and promoted as per the wishes of the President. His assignment is classified. Do you understand what that means, Vance? <i>Class-if-ied</i> — perhaps we need to send you back to FLETC for a few classes to cover need-to-know and chain-of-command as it appears you’ve forgotten that the rules apply to you as well.”
"I'm the Director of this agency, I deserve to be read into any and all assignments my agents are involved in," Vance demanded.
"No, you don't!" Davenport replied in quiet anger. "You have proved, without a doubt, to both myself and the President that you are in no way trustworthy after the way you handled the fiasco in Israel. The Prime Minister of Israel is furious with David for making those demands and just as flabbergasted as the President that you acquiesced. What the hell is wrong with the two of you? And don’t even get me started on some of the other shit Gibbs has pulled in the recent past." The SecNav gathered his things and prepared to exit, having had enough of this man. "One more fuck up, Leon, and you're out. Done."
"No. There's no excuse for the way you treated one of your agents, one of the people who trusted you to have their back." He was almost at the door. "And Leon? Your people better not dig into his assignment. When I say <i>classified</i>, I mean it. All of you stay away from it. Don’t make me say it again; You better believe that I have eyes on all of you."
He opened the door and found a flushed and still furious Jimmy Palmer on the other side of it.
"Oh, sorry, sir. Didn't mean to interrupt."
"Not at all, young man. Are you alright?"
"Yes – no, sorry. I'm just here to hand in my resignation, Mr. Secretary, Director." Jimmy handed his letter to Vance. "Thank you, I'll be using my vacation days to serve out my two weeks notice, already set it up with HR. Have a good night."
"I'll walk out with you, son," the SecNav offered, leaving a stunned Leon Vance behind holding an envelope.
Director Vance fumed at his desk, DiNozzo’s file sitting in front of him untouched. “That man has been nothing but trouble from the moment I sat in this chair,” he mumbled to himself.
“Actually, it’s the people around him who have been trouble and using Agent DiNozzo as the scapegoat that’s the problem. Sir.”
Vance looked up and found his secretary standing there with coffee for him and a very disappointed look on her face. “Cynthia, what are you talking about?”
Closing the door and after giving her boss his coffee, Cynthia sat down at the conference table instead of in the visitor’s chair across from his desk. “Bring his file over here and I’ll show you.”
Curiosity getting the better of him, Vance did as he was told. If there was one hard and fast rule to learn in climbing any ladder in Washington, it was “Don’t piss off the secretary. They know all, rule all.” It wasn’t any different here. Cynthia knew everything about everyone in town and in the office. And if she was angry at him, then he was screwed.
“First of all, we need to re-adjust your perception of the members of the MCRT. Your so-called protege, McGee, may have once been full of potential to go the way you think he’s headed, but about four years ago he stopped working to better himself and instead became full of himself.
“DiNozzo was doing a great job of training him, building up his confidence. But then Sheppard put that assassin on the team and McGee decided to follow her lead instead of being loyal to his superior and teammate.”
“I don’t understand, what do you mean?”
“Ziva, in case you’ve missed it — I guess you have, actually — basically does everything possible to undermine Tony’s authority and drive a wedge between him and the rest of the team. She preyed on McGee’s insecurities and need to belong and drew him right in. It’s pathetic how quickly it happened, within a month I think. She had McGee eating out of the palm of her hand and I just about wanted to strangle him.”
“Do you have specific examples?”
“Of course I do, but we don’t have time for silly anecdotes of being purposefully left out of team dinners and then rubbing it in his face or making sure Tony knows that no one will care if he’s hurt or dead. What I want to show you are these here.” Cynthia dug out three piles from the file and placed them in front of the director.
“This first pile contains the write-ups Tony did for McGee, the second for Ziva, the third for Abby. Most of them are from the time when Gibbs abandoned his team. Again, you weren’t here, so you didn’t see the complete disrespect shown to Agent DiNozzo when he was the team lead, but I would have fired them if I was in charge. And that’s not even bringing up that damn book of McGee’s.”
“So why weren’t they fired?” Vance was flabbergasted at the thick piles in front of them. How had he not known about all these complaints? He wasn’t even going to touch that stupid book issue.
“Because Madam Director deemed them perfectly fine. She wanted Tony isolated to do her bidding on that damn op and she turned a blind eye to Abby making the digital copies disappear from the system.”
“But you made sure the paper copies didn’t.”
Cynthia just gave a small smile in reply and continued. “Sheppard pretty much had Tony over a barrel with that mission, and so he did what he could. But he wore himself down — doing the work of entire team plus the op. Other teams did their best to back him up when he had to go out, pushed him to go home and sleep and eat. It’s the only way he survived. And they were his support system when the all mighty Gibbs returned. Don’t even get me started on what you let happen with Israel — that was above and beyond stupid. Tony deserved better.”
“There are things —”
“Don’t even start with me. Ziva and her daddy are the ones in the wrong here, not the actual agent doing his actual job, and you know it. Support your people, sir. Right now you are one step away from losing the loyalty of everyone in this agency because of what you did to that man.”
Vance sat back and stared down at the file before him —a file he had never really read through before, to be honest. And Cynthia knew it.
“And what do you suggest? I assume you already have a plan.”
“You assume correctly. The plan is fairly simple. You need to do three things: handle Abby and McGee,” she gestured to the piles on the table, “handle Gibbs — the man is toxic — and put in place a completely new MCRT. Doing that will indicate to everyone that Gibbs’ way is done. Physically reprimanding subordinates will not be considered acceptable, stupid rules about not apologizing, antagonizing every other LEO and agency — it’s all a thing of the past as of this moment.”
“It’s that simple, is it?” Vance asks quietly, cradling his face in his hands, suddenly overcome with exhaustion.
“It really, really is.”
PART III – BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
“What do we have here?” Morrigan looked down into the scrying pool to see who was sending prayers her way. Well, not just hers, but also Arawn’s, who was making his way over to join her by the pool.
“It has been quite some time since we have been called upon, Morrigan, never mind together,” Arawn said quietly. He, too, was curious about the events below. “This one who calls upon us is one of great power, ancient power.”
Through the water they saw a young woman who virtually glowed with power. It was very familiar, yet neither could quite pinpoint it. She was slim, fair skinned, brunette, and sad. So very, very sad.
“Hear my plea, Morrigan, Goddess of war, and Arawn, God of the Underworld and Revenge. For the one who has raised me, protected me and countless others, who has sacrificed so much of himself for the good of this world is finally getting his due. But there are those who simply will not let him be. He has shed enough blood and trained others to do so, he deserves the chance to do what is best for him now.
“But these — these — ugh! — These two lowly beings who call themselves friends use magic to attempt to once more subdue him like before, they manipulate those around him and themselves to do their bidding. They think themselves special. Stupid Slayer mentality, it’s gone to her head. And the witch is addicted to power again. I’m so lost with how to protect Xander from their schemes.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m rambling and doing this all wrong now.
“Please just — anything, really, even some advice would be helpful. Those two need to be stopped before they ruin everything, not just for Xander and this new path he’s on, but also for the rest of the Slayers.
“So mote it be.”
The two Gods watched as the brunette did the closing ritual, dried her tears of frustration and packed away her tools.
“Well, I am quite intrigued,” Arawn began, dipping a finger in the waters and swirling them around. “However, I am unsure of whom she speaks.”
“She speaks of the women warriors with the demon spirits pieces forced upon them by man long ago. There was once only one, but it is many now that go by that title.”
In the waters they watched as the history played out, showing them the story behind the prayer.
Faith came upon Dawn in the gardens behind the main house of the Cleveland headquarters, sitting on a stone bench with dried tear tracks on her face.
“What’s up, little D?”
Dawn looked at Faith with a tired smile, “I’m just wrung out, Faith. Twatwaffle One and Two are at it again and I don’t know if I have the energy to keep everyone safe from their stupid plans.” She saw Faith about to run off in anger and kept talking so she would know the whole picture. “Also, I’m fairly sure The Red Bitch — sorry, Witch has laid out another memory charm on Giles and attempted to whammy me again.
“I can’t seem to calm down enough to come up with a plan to get rid of her and Her Blondness — even prayed for help — but something definitely needs to be done. Xander deserves to have his chance at happiness, and the girls deserve their chance at a normal life and safe slayage without interference by Willow and Buffy.”
“Damn straight, D, which is why I’m going to go in there in and do some slayage of my own.”
“Or perhaps you might avail yourselves of the assistance you so recently requested.”
Faith and Dawn spun around in fighting stances to face a man and woman. The woman stood in battle gear, a great spear in her hands and ravens all around. The man was covered in dark armor, like a knight of old, and the aura of death surrounded him. A mane of black hair could be seen from under the helmet, but that was all until he took it off.
“Fear not, my warrior, we are here to answer the prayer of your companion.” Taking a closer look at Dawn, Morrigan drew in a sharp breath. “You have not been seen in millennia!”
“Please keep that to yourself, My Lady, as my safety depends on it. However, we both thank you for personally answering my prayers.” Dawn was doing her best not to offend the obviously powerful beings before her and the Slayer. “What sort of assistance are you willing to supply?”
“For that, I need to see your memories of the ones you spoke of.”
“You need to what? What kind of voodoo are you about to do on Little D?” Faith asked, worried that harm would come to her friend. She knew somehow that she would be no match for these two, even though they still had not introduced themselves.
“Morrigan, they do not know who we are and you ask them to let you into the most private of places.” Arawn shook his head in exasperation. “I am Arawn, God of Revenge — among other things.”
“You sure don’t sound Godly, mister.”
“Faith,” Dawn sighed, hands covering her face in embarrassment. “Please don’t irritate the Gods actually offering help.”
“Oh come on, Dawn, they sound just like us! All the other PTBs sound like pretentious frou-frous out of some Victorian whatever you have stashed under your bed.”
“Stay out of my underbed!”
“How else will I get the books?”
“You ask,” came the matter of fact response.
“If you two are quite done?” Morrigan asked, lack of patience leaking through.
“That’s much more believable.”
“Quite. I am Morrigan, Goddess of War and Death. <i>Not</i> the holder of patience.”
“Point taken,” Dawn said quietly.
“Will you let me into your mind?”
“Will this hurt?”
“Then proceed, please, with my permission.”
Morrigan and Arawn each put a hand on one side of Dawn’s head and let their power flow through her, seeing her memories in an instant. Had they tried this with the mortal, it would have fried her brain.
Letting go, both Gods were silent, taking time to digest all they had seen.
Looking to the heavens, Morrigan called out in a firm, deep voice, “Cerridwen, I beseech thee join us to reign judgment upon one who has wronged many.”
Within moments, a woman appeared, also very powerful by the aura she was putting off. Red hair flowing down her back, with a wreath of flowers sitting on top, skin as white as milk.
“Why have you summoned me here, Morrigan?”
“Show her your memories, child, let her Judge for herself what one of her children has done,” Morrigan ordered Dawn.
Without waiting for confirmation, Cerridwen lay her hands on Dawn’s head and delved deep into her mind, uncaring of whether or not she survived the reading. Or at least, that’s how it seemed like to Faith but the Dark Slayer held her tongue when a moment later yet another furious Goddess stood before her. Wind that didn’t exist two seconds before suddenly whipped through her hair, and knuckles turned white as they were curled so tightly into fists by her side.
“Um, you might want to ease up there a bit before you hurt yourself. I get that you’re pissed, we all are — but before you go flying off and flattening them with the heel of your bitchin’ boot there, we all need to come up with a plan.” Faith couldn’t believe that all had just come out of her mouth. Obviously, she had been spending too much time around the Xan man.
“She’s right,” Dawn added, not letting Faith do this alone. “The whole going in without a plan always ends up with one of us getting dead. Granted, somehow we end up getting not-dead again, but that’s a whole different problem.” She paused. “Or maybe it’s the same problem.”
“Well, considering the Red Bitch — I’m sorry, the Red <i>Witch </i>is usually involved, then yeah, I’d say it’s part of the same problem.”
“You mean to say she has been playing with the natural order?” Arawn demanded.
“Dude, you just watched all of my memories, weren’t you paying attention?”
“Dawn, you were really young when a lot of that shit went down, you might not have understood what you were seeing. Give the dude a pass on this one.”
“Whatever. Can we go do something about them now?”
“We can.” Morrigan and Cerridwen stepped away with Arawn for a moment, communicating in some silent form before coming back to the two young women. “We have a plan.”
“Alright. Let’s hear it.”
Cerridwen and Morrigan appear in front of Buffy and Willow with a burst of shining light, Arawn arriving silently in the background. All eyes were on the two Goddesses as they loomed over the Slayer and her Witch in the center of the room.
“Kneel and await your punishment, Witchling.” Cerridwen was now in the aspect of Crone, her white hair flowing around her along with her power. “You who has abused the gifts given to you — given and stolen by you. Never have I seen one take such a precious thing and abuse it so!”
“What the hell are you talking about, lady? And who the hell are you to come in here and —“ Buffy was cut off by Willow’s hand covering her mouth.
“Shut. Up.” Willow was shaking all over. “Just shut up, Buffy. You may have no idea who they are, but I do. I can feel the power coming off of them, and if you anger them, you are dead.”
“And dead she should be, Witchling, as you know.” Morrigan put in. “How dare you play with the forces of life and death; your arrogance has wrought so much ill — you have injured my warriors, changed the fate of wars, and not for the better. That was not for you to do. You are not a God.” The last sentence reverberated through everyone’s skulls.
Cerridwen moved her hands in odd motions to those who could not see the magic in the air, but to those who could, it was an awesome sight. And yet, it was also a depressing one. The more she seemed to move, weave, the brighter the magic became and the more it took shape. Soon it became clear that she was creating a web, connecting all the magic that Willow had woven over the years.
“What do all the different colors mean?” Asked one of the younger witches on the sidelines.
“They indicate the different types of magic,” the Crone answered, continuing her work. “The brighter colors are those that are harmless magics or those done with permission.”
The many gasps and the quiet crying as the surrounding girls took in the amount of dark spread through the colors — it was horrifying. “All of that was done without permission?” Another asked.
“Ill intent, without permission, without cause, what have you. There was no justification for any of it.” Cerridwen continued about her business, taking note that not one piece of magic had touched the blonde Slayer.
Arawn also noted the same.
“Not all of you may see it,” he began as he walked to the center, scaring some as they had not noticed him, “but none of the magics that the Witchling had spun had touched the blonde Slayer.” He let that set in for a moment.
“And?” Buffy retorted, full of attitude.
“And that means that all of your actions, every word and deed, has been your own, you silly child.”
Murmurings began again only to be broken up by Rupert Giles. “You have yet to introduce yourselves or state your reasons for coming in the first place.” His face was pale, as he could see that much of the darker strands had been touching him.
The three deities introduced themselves, but left out who had called them there. “It was this one,” pointing to Willow, “and her activities that have brought us here. She has wronged one of my warriors, played with the forces of life and death as if she were a Goddess herself — it must be dealt with.” Morrigan kept herself calm while explaining, but it was indeed a chore dealing with these mortals. “You have much work in front of you to fix the errors she has made, to calm the portals she has tainted.”
“But we need her!” one of the younger witches cried out. “She is all that stands between us and annihilation!”
“Who told you such nonsense?” Morrigan asked, waving the concern away. “She serves no such purpose, I assure you. It is written nowhere on her strings of fate.”
Giles removed his glasses and pinched his nose as per usual, with a deep sigh. Rona gave him a comforting pat on the arm and then turned back to the center of the room to hear more.
“Witchling, your punishment is thus,” Cerridwen proclaimed, the web finally drawn out, the dark colors having been sucked away. “Your powers will be removed, never to return; you will be unable to call upon external forces by any means, whether through other people or objects, word or deed. Should you commit an act towards another with ill intent it will come back unto you threefold. So mote it be.”
“So mote it be,” repeated Morrigan and Arawn.
“NO!” Screamed Willow, but it was too late, the punishment had taken.
“And as for you, Slayer, your time has come.” Arawn looked down on her sadly.
“I don’t understand,” Giles stepped forward as if to block him. “I thought you were here for Willow only.”
“Nay,” Cerridwen explained, “this one was taken from the realm of Death and shall be returned there. Her presence here is upsetting the balance. The longer she is here the worse she will be.”
“Have you not noticed the wrongness inside her? Have you not seen the signs?” Morrigan asked.
“I have,” Dawn said softly, tears falling down her face. “I have noticed, and I’ve tried talking to all of you about it. But I’m guessing Willow’s magic has kept you all from hearing me.”
Arawn took Buffy’s hand and let her hug her sister before having her join with the three deities in the center. Cerridwen put a hand on Buffy’s shoulder, the three of them fading silently within a few seconds.
“Blessings be upon you all,” Morrigan said as she, too, faded away.
“Young lady –” Giles began in Dawn’s direction, but Faith cut him off.
“Don’t you start, G-man. In case you missed what those higher ups just said and did, let me sum up. We have all just been cleansed of a bunch of fucked up magic that was messing with our minds thanks to the Red Bitch, here.” Giles opened his mouth to interrupt, but Faith steamrolled over him. “Nuh-uh, not done. We can all finally think and act clearly for the first time in who knows how long, and it is all thanks to Little D asking for help from the right people.
“You just heard them say that all that ‘She’s necessary for the fight’ stuff is complete bullshit. We have all these other witches here, and probably a lot more allies out there besides. Do you know how many people won’t have jack to do with us because of her and Buffy?”
“What are you speaking about? What nonsense are you –”
“Giles, why do you still defend her? You are clear of magics. At this point, all your faculties should be back in check. You should be able to reason that Willow and Buffy did a lot of damage to our relationships with other countries and agencies. Almost no one trusts us at this point because of their attitudes and what they have taught the younger Slayers and Witches. Only those under Xander’s tutelage have managed good reputations.” Dawn looked at her father figure — well, maybe at this point it was now a former father figure — in trepidation. Was he a lost a cause too?
It looked like the Council had a lot of in-house cleaning up to do — starting from the top.
Willow simply sat there crying about how unfair it all was.
Everyone ignored her.
PART IV – CSI: MIAMI
There was a commotion out in the lobby, the noise level rising instead of lowering, which meant that Horatio needed to make his way down there. Lab technicians were poking their heads out to see what was going on, but staying where they were when they noticed Horatio heading in that direction.
“What seems to be the issue?” he asked, finding three military officers — two male, one female — standing at the desk. They did not seem to be in a good mood. Four more soldiers were back by the elevators waiting for any word they were needed, it seemed.
“Lieutenant Caine?” The blonde officer, a Colonel if he was not mistaken, approached him.
“Yes. Who’s asking?”
“Colonel Samantha Carter, U.S. Air Force. These are your cease and desist papers,” she said, shoving the thick envelope she had been carrying into his hands, “should you or any of your people continue attempting to access classified government files, you will be arrested. No exceptions.”
“No, sir, I will not. I feel I have been pretty clear. This has been your one and only warning.”
Her fellow officers started towards the elevators when Eric Delco decided to make an appearance. “Is this about Wolfe, is he in trouble?”
“Eric, return to your lab, please,” Horatio said quietly, trying to head off any trouble.
“This is about this people in this department attempting to dig into systems that are out of their jurisdiction without warrant and without reason.”
“Without reason? We have reason, we want to know what happened to Wolfe!” Came Eric’s indignant reply.
“Good day, gentlemen.” The Colonel swiftly turned and headed out, not giving them any more answers, certainly nothing to verify their curiously about their former co-worker.
“Eric, were you looking into Mr. Wolfe’s new circumstances?” the Lieutenant asked.
“Well, yeah, H, of course I was. We all have been.”
“Don’t speak for me, asshole” “Or me!” Came from random workers around the lab.
“Whatever. Wolfe just hightailed it out of here without a word to anyone. He didn’t even give us the courtesy of letting us know he was looking for a new job.” Eric huffed, hands on hips, as if he’d made his point.
“And so that meant you could invade his privacy and hack into governmental databases? From what I’m reading here, you’re lucky you’re not already in restraints.” Looking up again at his subordinate he shook his head in disappointment. “I, too, am angered about how this all has gone down, but Eric, this was not the way to go about it. Not the way to go about it, at all.”
Horatio turned and walked away from the cluster of CSI techs to think on the issue some more. What was going on here and where was his CSI?
An hour later and Horatio stewed in silence at his desk, surveying his subordinates through the glass walls to the offices below. The earlier scene in the lobby irked him but the conversation he had had with Ryan Wolfe had unnerved him and offended his pride. The moment someone is hired into his lab, they become one of his people.
And yet, Mr. Wolfe – Ryan – was correct, he really hadn't been brought into the fold, had he. The team had drawn out their grief over Speed's death, letting it spill over everything they touched and worked on, the people they worked with. Looking with fresh eyes on the last six months, Horatio could see that less and less officers were willing to work with them, as they seemed to be cycled through the same handful instead of randomly assigned. He'd have to get together with Frank on that.
In fact, speaking with Frank was probably the right thing to do.
Horatio was glad that he had chosen a table some distance from the crowd at the little beachside café. From the expression on his companion’s face, there was no doubt that this was yet another conversation that he was not going to enjoy.
“It’s about damn time you opened your eyes, H.” Frank said, no ounce of shyness about him. “The kid has it right. Hell, Alexx flat out told him she didn’t need any new friends. What the hell was he supposed to do with that? And Eric. I know you think that boy is something else, and I like him, too, Horatio –”
“But what, Frank? Just tell me. Seems like I’ve been missing a lot right under my own nose in my own lab.”
“But that boy has been hazing the shit out of Wolfe. And since you haven’t done anything about it, the rest of the lab has taken that as permission to follow suit.”
Horatio sighed and looked off into the horizon contemplating what was being said to him. Could all this be true? Could he have let someone under his authority, his protection, be run out of the lab like that?
And it still burned that he had no idea who had poached the young man right out from under him — although he now had a clue that it was the Air Force. Mr. Wolfe had shown great promise and there was a reason he had accepted him onto his shift. The attention to detail, the ability to think logically, to follow the evidence. All of that was going to help round out the team in ways they desperately needed. But now someone else had him, and Horatio had no idea who.
Who found him, interviewed him? What drew them to Ryan in the first place? Was there a specific case? Would there be phone records? The apartment was completely packed up when he went out there, but Horatio couldn’t recall Ryan saying anything about movers in the last while. When did they start the interview process?
Horatio had a lot of research to do and phone calls to make — quietly. No one came into his city and took his people without his say so.
PART V – TEEN WOLF
Officers readied themselves at the front and back entrances of the house with a few stationed at the side of the house where they thought a third escape route was likely. On a silent three count, they all entered practically simultaneously, spreading out throughout first level and finding it clear before proceeding to the second.
The uninvited guest was still unaware that there was anyone else in the house with him. He was too busy searching the room for whatever item he needed. There was nothing quiet about this search, with commentary about his lack of success clearly audible.
By the time the officers reached the room being searched, they had already identified their intruder. An intruder so focused on his objective that he wasn’t paying attention to what his supernatural senses were telling him — screaming at him, even — about the approaching police officers. Something he should have noticed as they approached in their vehicles, never mind entered the house.
“Scott McCall, put your hands up. You’re under arrest for breaking and entering.”
“What are you doing in this house?” Scott asked, like the complete idiot he was.
“I think the Sheriff should be asking that question,” Deputy Parish said from behind two other deputies, who had already lowered their weapons upon realizing who it was in front of them. “What the hell are you doing in this house, Scott?”
“I’m looking for Stiles, I need –”
The deputy sighed and cut off the boy in front of him. It had been four months since Stiles had left for his new school, and since then father and son had had some very frank conversations. At first the Sheriff hadn’t wanted to hear what his son was saying, but it didn’t take long to see that it was all true. Jordan had been the sounding board for the Sheriff, his confidant. So this little scene wasn’t heartbreaking, it was irksome and angering.
“You need to come down to the station where you can explain to both the Sheriff and your mother what you’re up to. These deputies will tentatively be charging you with breaking and entering. Don’t make them add resisting arrest.”
Melissa McCall arrived at the Sheriff station both curious and angry. "What has he done now, Noah?"
"Well, for starters, he broke into my home and was rummaging through my son's room. I have no idea what for as I haven't questioned him yet."
"And why not?" She asked, furious that her son was being held at all.
"Well," the Sheriff began to explain with a surprising amount of patience, "seeing as he's a minor still, I had to wait for a parent to appear. Not to mention that it's my home he broke into, so Parish will be the one questioning him." He waved her into the interview room without another word, cutting off anything else she could say.
Entering the observation room, Noah Stilinski watched as Deputy Parish settled himself at the table with Melissa McCall and her son. At this point, no recording devices were going to be used as there was no telling what would fall from Scott’s mouth. Neither Parish nor Noah trusted that Scott could still his tongue without Stiles there to do it for him.
“So Scott, tell us what you were doing in the Stilinski home without permission from the Sheriff today. Especially since you were supposed to be in school, I might add,” Parish started off, getting right to the heart of the matter.
“What’s all this ‘breaking in’ stuff? Stiles and I go into each other’s homes all the time, just ask him. Where is he anyway? He should be here by now. And I was there because I need information from him and he isn’t answering his phone and he wasn’t in class today, okay? What’s it to you?”
“Scott Andrew McCall, you cut that attitude out right now, do you understand me?” Melissa lectured her son. “You answer all of the deputy’s questions, and you answer them honestly. And don’t even <i>think</i> I don’t have some questions of my own.” Scott shrank back from his mother’s anger. “Let’s start with why you weren’t in school.”
“I needed to find Stiles for the information.”
“The information couldn’t wait two hours until after school hours? What kind of information could only Stiles have?” Parish asked. There weren’t any high profile cases on their desks at the moment, nothing that screamed supernatural to him, so he was completely clueless as to what would seem so urgent to Scott.
“There are some new kids at school and they give off this weird scent, and I needed to know what it was.” Scott seemed satisfied with himself that this was a good enough reason to ditch school and sat back as if freedom was imminent.
“A weird scent. That’s it.” Parish’s tone was flat, unimpressed. “And this led you to breaking into the Sheriff’s home?”
“Well, I couldn’t find Stiles in class and he didn’t answer his phone. So I went over there to see what I could find.”
At this point Parish looked at the two-way mirror, silently asking if the Sheriff wanted to step in. Melissa noticed the interaction and voiced her concern.
“Is there something I’m missing here, gentlemen?” she asked when Noah entered the room.
“Yes, there is. It seems as though Scott here is under the impression that Stiles was only absent from school for the day.” Noah leaned against the door to the interview room, keeping all parties in view and out of reach of Melissa McCall. If his gut was right, she was about to get really angry, and he did not want to be within striking distance.
“And that’s not the case, I presume?”
“No, no it is not. Stiles was lucky enough to win a scholarship to an advanced program and is no longer in town.”
Melissa had a brief look of pride on her face for Stiles, which was quickly wiped away by anger as she looked towards her son. “And for how long, Sheriff, has Stiles been out of town?”
The bugged out look on Scott’s face said it all for Melissa. Her son had absolutely no idea that his supposed best friend had been gone all that time. Fantastic. What else had she been blind to? “So tell me, Scott, two weeks ago when you were ‘hanging out with Stiles,’ what were you really doing? And last month when you slept over at his place, where were you? How many other lies have you told me? What else have I lain at the doorstep of Stiles Stilinski that have nothing to do with him <i>since he hasn’t even been in town</i>?”
“Mom, I didn’t know! It’s not my fault!”
“It’s not your fault that you’re a bad liar? That you didn’t research your lies? Sure, why not? It is <i>completely</i> your fault that you’re such an awful friend that you didn’t notice someone who is supposed to be your best friend hasn’t been around for four months, though.”
Turning to Noah and Jordan, she continued. “I’m sorry for taking up your time, gentlemen. If you aren’t pressing charges, then I think my son’s four-month grounding is about to begin. Once I get things settled at home, I think I’d like to sit down and speak to the both of you, if you don’t mind.”
“I think that would be best, Melissa,” The Sheriff agreed.
Of course, the moment his mother was gone, Scott was on the phone calling the rest of the pack to his house. Lydia arrived first with Danny in tow. Liam arrived five minutes later along with Mason, both asking what the emergency was. The Alpha twins came along immediately after, followed by Allison.
“Stiles is gone!” Scott announced, eyes wide and huffing half in anger and half in shock.
“Well, of course he’s gone. Are you really just noticing this now?” Lydia asked, bored already with the conversation.
Danny nodded, confusion on his face as to Scott’s shock. “Scott, Stiles has been gone for months. Didn’t you — he’s supposed to be your best friend, man, why are you just saying something now?”
“You mean you knew? You all knew? Where is he? What is he doing? I need information and I couldn’t —“
“Oh,” Lydia interrupted him, rising from her seat and smoothing out her skirts. “That’s what this is about. Poor little True Alpha just realized that his information source is missing and he can’t get the quick research done like always so he sends up the alarm.”
Danny got up from his seat as well, seeing where this was going. “Scott, if I had the power to hightail it out of here, too, I would. This place is ridiculous and no sane person would stay in such a dangerous area if they didn’t have to.”
“Danny, can you hack into —”
“Why not? It’s just Stiles, it’s not like he was really pack anyway.“ Allison piped up, coming to Scott’s defense.
“And I said no. Not to mention that out of everyone here, Stiles was the best example of what a pack mate should be, you sanctimonious bitch.”
“But I need —“ Scott started again, completely focused on his own problems and ignoring what these people were trying to tell him.
“Scott, get it through your head, Stiles is no longer here to be at your beck and call. Do your own research. Danny will not violate his privacy for you. And if you ever send out a 911 call again, it better damn well be an emergency.” She turned to leave only to be faced with a very angry Mama McCall.
“Your grounding is definitely not what I would call an emergency, young man. All of you need to clear out, and unless there is a life and death situation — which I would also be made aware of — you are not invited to this home. Scott is homebound, except where school is involved, for the next four months. End of discussion.”
Knowing what was best for them, the pack dutifully filed out of the McCall home, not wanting to upset Mrs. McCall any further. They could hear Scott getting lectured from outside the home.
“It’s a good thing I forgot my bag here or I never would have known that you’d already broken your grounding which you know was just a stupid thing to do. What the hell, Scott? Asking Danny to hack Stiles’ files? What is wrong with you? Where did I go wrong with you that you would violate his privacy like that? I don’t know what do with you anymore. And you better believe I’ll be informing his father of what just took place here. I’m so disappointed in you.”