Ziva led Elizabeth into her apartment, standing aside to let her in the door. She glanced around, trying to figure out who would sleep where. Just as she was making up her mind, Elizabeth spoke.
“I’ll take the couch. I’m shorter than you are, I’ll fit better.”
“You are injured. You should take the bed,” Ziva replied.
“Couch looks plenty comfortable enough to me,” Elizabeth replied, setting her duffle down next to it.
“Fine,” Ziva said, not wanting to start a fight over something so trivial. “We are going house seeking tomorrow. Hank will be up here with the furniture fairly soon, before he organises the sale of the house.”
She grabbed clean bedding out of a wardrobe, sidestepping Elizabeth as she tried to take it out of her hands. “Go get changed, I’ll take care of this.”
Elizabeth dug through her duffle bag, pulling out her pyjamas and toiletries bag then glanced around the apartment.
“Sorry!” Ziva exclaimed when she realised her mistake. “Let me give you the tour. This is the lounge room, which will double as your bedroom for as long as we have to stay here, here is the kitchen, study, bedroom and bathroom. I’ll leave you to change.”
She went back and finished making up the couch, turning as she heard the bathroom door open. Elizabeth exited, looking almost painfully young in pyjamas covered in pictures of sushi with her hair curling wildly around her face, her product having long since worn out. Her dark brown eyes matched her own, and the family resemblance was remarkable, even with the blonde hair.
“Can we find a hairdresser tomorrow?” asked Elizabeth, twisting a strand of that very hair around her finger.
“You want to get your colour touched up?” asked Ziva, gesturing to Elizabeth’s dark roots.
“Actually, I was thinking about going dark again. No more touch ups, and since I’m already living here as your sister, we don’t exactly have to worry about the family resemblance. Also, I am so sick of wearing contact lenses it’s not funny, and the blonde doesn’t really match our shade of brown.” Elizabeth shrugged one shoulder even as she crawled in between the covers on the couch and pulled the quilt up around her neck.
“Of course we can,” Ziva replied, smiling. “Sleep well, Elizabeth,” she said softly as she turned out the light.
“Good night, Ziva,” replied the blonde, smiling at her sister as she made her way into her bedroom, then snuggling down into the couch and falling asleep almost instantly.
Ziva woke with a start, unsure at first as to what had disturbed her. She heard a low moan from the lounge and quickly slipped out of bed, making her way on silent feet into the hall.
Elizabeth was mumbling in her sleep, head turning from side to side. “No,” she muttered in Hebrew, “Please…please stop.”
Ziva went down on her knees beside the couch, stroking her sister’s hair. “Shhh…” she soothed gently. A sudden inspiration hit, and she began to sing softly. “You are my sunshine…” slowly Elizabeth quieted, until she lay still, never having woken up. Ziva sat with her for a while longer, stroking her hair and humming, then stood and made her way back to bed on silent feet.
Elizabeth woke the next morning to find the apartment still and silent. She slipped out of her covers and padded down the hall to find her sister snoring loudly in her bed. She shuddered slightly and backed away from the door, instead going into the kitchen. She checked through the fridge, disposing of the spoiled milk, and started preparing some eggs and toast, setting the juice on the breakfast bar.
Ziva woke to the scent of eggs and smoke. She jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen to find a frying pan full of scrambled eggs and slightly burnt toast set on the bench. She breathed a sigh of relief and sat down next to her sister, who was sipping from a glass of juice. She had a plate of toast and eggs already in front of her. She pushed a plate and empty glass in front of Ziva, her eyes still heavy with sleep.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to wake you up,” Elizabeth said softly in French.
“No problem,” Ziva replied in the same language. “My alarm would have gone off in five minutes anyway. Want to go for a run?”
“Sure,” her sister replied, smiling. She would need to get into a full on exercise routine again to minimise her loss of strength and fitness, and it was always easier to do if you went with someone else.
They ate quickly and neatly, then separated to change, leaving the dishes in the sink. They stretched on the sidewalk and started out at a jog, following Ziva’s normal route through the park. Barely a mile later, Elizabeth’s ribs were screaming at her and she couldn’t go any further. “Ziva,” she gasped, drawing her sister’s immediate attention, one arm wrapping around her chest in a futile effort to relieve the pain.
“Oh, crap,” Ziva muttered as she helped Elizabeth to sit on a nearby bench. “We will get a taxi back. I am sorry, Elizabeth. I did not think this through properly.”
“Not your fault, I should know my own body’s limits,” Elizabeth replied, wincing as Ziva pressed carefully over her ribs.
Ziva just shrugged and wrapped a gentle arm around Elizabeth’s waist, helping her over to a road, where she quickly flagged down a cab.
They arrived home quickly, and Elizabeth waved Ziva off when she tried to help her climb the stairs. “It’s okay, I can manage. I don’t know why it was so much worse this time than when we were sparring,” she told her sister, embarrassed.
“It is nothing to be ashamed of,” Ziva told her, although she let her take the stairs herself. “You are hurt. You need to tell me when you cannot do something, and not be ashamed of it, do you understand?”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth muttered, eyes downcast.
“You can have first shower,” Ziva said as they entered the apartment, hoping that she had made her point with her sister.
“Thanks,” Buffy muttered, grabbing her duffle and heading into the bathroom.
Ziva sat at the kitchen bench, sipping a cup of coffee and waiting for Elizabeth to finish in the shower. She still had to figure out how to broach the issue of the internship without making it sound like she thought Elizabeth couldn’t take care of herself, something she was fairly sure was a sore point with the grieving teenager.
Elizabeth stepped out of the shower, and finally gave in and studied her reflection in the mirror. Her ribs and abdomen were a riot of colour, painted red, purple and blue in large blotches. Her face was swollen, her eye and nose dark purple, the split in her eyebrow was closing well. She sighed, and reached for her bra, missing the Slayer healing more than she ever thought she would.
She dressed quickly, wanting to get out of the room so her sister could have a shower as well.
“All yours,” she called as she exited the bathroom, making her way into the living room. She started to fold up the bedding, hearing Ziva head for the shower. Having put the bedding away behind the couch, she stopped. She had realised, while in the shower, that something she had said to Ziva was extremely true; she needed to be aware of her body’s own limits.
She needed to know how well her senses worked now, how strong, fast and flexible she was. In the last year she had become so used to the Slayer’s abilities that she couldn’t truly remember what was normal. So, she settled for assessing her body as it was now. She couldn’t test her physical abilities until her now human healing had fixed her ribs, but she could still test her senses.
Dropping onto the floor in a lotus position, hands on her knees, she closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. As her body calmed, she focused on her hearing, taking down the normal blocks she used to keep herself from being overwhelmed by the constant stream of background noise.
She pushed with her hearing, and found that she could hear the people in the apartments on either side, directly above and below clearly, those beyond less so, and so on for about four apartments. Beyond that, she couldn’t hear anything. When she focused in a specific direction, it made a slight difference, giving her clearer hearing up to that limit. She heard someone moving in the hallway, coming closer, and she pulled back into herself, opening her eyes. She found Ziva sitting opposite her, mimicking her posture and studying her curiously.
“There’s someone in the hallway,” she told her sister, just before the doorbell rang.
“I will answer it,” Ziva said, leaving unsaid that she didn’t want Elizabeth putting herself at risk that way.
She opened the door and raised an eyebrow at the delivery man behind it.
“Yeah, I got a package here from the Israeli Embassy for an Elisheva David?”
“Here,” Elizabeth said, standing and going to the door. She quickly signed the sheet and the boy handed over a large box, which Ziva took before Elizabeth could try. The boy left and the two sisters went back into the apartment.
“He sent them!” Elizabeth cried, grinning happily. She tried to grab the box, but Ziva held up a hand.
“Wait. Let me check it out first,” she told her, pulling a knife out of her boot and flipping it open. She carefully slit the tape, then slowly unfolded the flaps, looking carefully for flaps. She breathed a sigh of relief as she saw the intact Mossad seals, and lifted the plastic wrapped books out of the box. “Here you go,” she said, handing it to her sister, who pulled it open with a grin.
“Sweet!” she cried, pulling out her photo albums. She flipped through, then turned the book and held it out to Ziva.
Ziva gasped as she saw the picture, eyes widening. Two girls, one redheaded, one brunette, played jump rope together, caught in mid jump as the rope passed beneath their feet. One was clearly Buffy, the resemblance there even without the blonde hair. The other was Tali, her youthful features preserved forever in joyful abandon on film.
“It is beautiful,” she said softly, voice strangled.
“That was the last day she was there when I was six. No one would talk to me, tell me what happened to her, but I knew. Who wouldn’t?”
Ziva simply nodded, unable to speak. She knew why Elizabeth hadn’t been told, that they wanted to protect her, but she understood the pain of a child who understood what was happening but could get no one to talk to her about it, and she solemnly promised herself never to put her sister in that situation. She caressed the plastic over both youthful faces, frozen together forever, then handed the book back.
“Oh, I made you an appointment with my hairdresser while you were in the shower,” Ziva told her. “They managed to fit you in at twelve, so if we leave now, we can go to the real estate agent before then and see what they have available.”
“Let’s go,” Elizabeth said, setting the books carefully on the coffee table and standing.
They got out of the car in front of the real estate agent’s office, Elizabeth laughing at her sister. “I haven’t been in a car ride like that since last summer,” she chuckled, and Ziva grinned.
“You are the only one who seems to appreciate it,” she told her, and Elizabeth chuckled.
“Let’s find an apartment,” she said, and the two of them entered the agency.
Two hours and several car trips later, Ziva signed the final papers on the rental agreement for a three bedroom house in a mostly military/diplomatic suburb, on a decent sized block of land.
They got back into the car and headed for the salon, Ziva still trying to decide how to tell her sister about the internship.
“Elizabeth,” she said slowly. “Listen…I have been trying to decide how to tell you this since yesterday, and I have not been able to think of anything. There was a leak, in the Office, which is how the Hamas agents knew who you were even though they had not broken your cover. It has been plugged, but we do not know who heard about it.”
“You’re telling me that there could be other people coming looking for me,” Elizabeth said slowly.
“Yes,” Ziva said, glad her sister had put it into words instead of forcing her to.
“Papa told you to keep me close, didn’t he?” her sister asked with a sigh.
“Director Shepherd has offered you one of the summer internships at NCIS, attached to Gibbs’ team,” Ziva told her.
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” asked Elizabeth, then shrugged. “Not like I had anything better to do with my summer anyway.”
Ziva breathed a sigh of relief that Elizabeth was going to be reasonable about the whole thing. “Thank you,” she said softly, glancing over to meet her sister’s eyes.
“What for?” asked Elizabeth, confused.
“Never mind,” Ziva replied, shaking her head. “We’re here,” she said, doing a wild turn into the parking lot.
They entered the salon and sat down quietly to wait.
Soon, Elizabeth was sitting in a chair and giving the opposite directions to those she had been giving for years.
“My natural colour matches Ziva’s,” she told the stylist, who nodded. “I’d like to go back to that, or as close as possible, so I can grow out my natural colour.”