Elizabeth fell asleep almost as soon as the car started moving and slept on and off for the entire forty-minute drive to NCIS. Ziva watched her out of the corner of her eye as she wove through the heavy morning traffic, shortening their commute with her usual disregard for traffic safety laws.
She drove through the boom gates and parked the car, turning to face her sister. Elizabeth looked so peaceful, more so than Ziva had seen her since they had met. With a sad smile, Ziva reached out and touched her shoulder.
“Elizabeth,” she called gently. “It’s time to wake up, we’re here.”
Buffy woke up with a start, glancing around nervously before relaxing. She breathed a sigh of relief as she realized where she was, and quickly climbed out of the car.
“Let’s go, we need to get you registered with security.”
“’Kay,” Buffy mumbled, following her sister, feeling stiff, sore and tired.
Finally, having been photographed, fingerprinted, retina-scanned and all around poked and prodded, she was released to go with Ziva to the bullpen. Ziva pointed out various places in the building as they went, locations that she would need to know, and Elizabeth took note of them all.
Soon, the two sisters were in the bullpen, where an extra cubical, almost more of a cubby hole than anything else, with a desk, a computer and a phone, had been added at the end of the row of desks, putting Elizabeth at the opposite end of the row to Ziva.
She waited to be told what she was supposed to do, and soon found herself dozing in her seat, her aches and pains eased by the latest dose of pain medication, her breathing, which she hadn’t realized had been difficult the night before, eased by her upright position.
The others, seeing Ziva’s relief, walked quietly and talked softly, and Abby, after coming up to give Gibbs some results, left again, only to come back with a blanket and Bert, who she tucked against Buffy, who mumbled and wrapped an arm around him as the Goth carefully tucked the blanket around her.
None of the team were really sure what they would do with an intern, but the fact remained that it was summer, and the girl needed something to do, as well as being somewhere protected.
Jenny made her way down the stairs, smiling slightly as she saw Elizabeth’s sleeping arrangements. She made her way to Gibbs desk and spoke softly. “I put my mind to the sorts of things your intern could learn during her stay with you,” she told him, handing over the list. Gibbs flicked through it, nodding and smiling softly. It was a good, well rounded list, including things like computer studies, crime scene control, some forensic science, interrogation techniques and autopsy procedures – almost all of them things that would keep her within the most protected sections of NCIS.
“I wanted to keep her busy without overwhelming her. She’ll also be your gopher, but only within the building, obviously.”
Gibbs nodded, smiling slightly. “This is great, Jenny. Thanks.” He passed it over to Ziva as Jenny made her way back up to her office, where she thanked Cynthia for coming up with the internship program.
Downstairs, Gibbs team were startled out of catching up on their paperwork by a loud whimper coming from the end desk.
“La!” cried Elizabeth suddenly. “La! La! Tafakhal! Laysa!” No! No! No! Please! Don’t!
Ziva was on her feet before her sister and finished crying out, dropping to her knees beside her. “Elizabeth. Elizabeth. BUFFY!” he shook her sister’s shoulder gently as she called her name, trying to rouse her.
Buffy snapped awake suddenly, lashing out blindly at whoever was holding her shoulder, too caught up in her memory to differentiate between the present and the past. Ziva fell backwards, just avoiding hitting her head on the desk as she went. Buffy was already on her feet, gasping for breath, staring around. She blinked slowly, several times, and finally came to herself.
“Ziva!” she dropped to her knees by her sister, looking her over carefully. “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”
“I am fine. It was my own fault, I should have known better. Next time I will throw something at you instead.” Buffy helped her sister up, surreptitiously checking her over as she did so. “I really am fine.” Or maybe not so surreptitiously. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Buffy said with a cheery smile. “Peachy with a side of keen!” Just then, her stomach grumbled, and she blushed slightly. “Just a bit hungry.”
“We were about to order lunch,” Gibbs offered, and Ziva nodded. Buffy glanced down and saw the blanket and hippo. Smiling sadly, she picked up the stuffed animal and hugged it gently. When it farted, she burst out laughing, the musical sound bringing a smile to the faces of the team.
“Who is this?” asked Buffy, curious.
“That is Bert, he belongs to Abby,” volunteered McGee.
“I should take him home, then,” Buffy said, rubbing a hand over the hippo’s head. “Down two levels, right?”
“That’s right. Be back up here in twenty minutes, bring Abby with you,” Gibbs ordered, and Buffy nodded before skipping towards the staircase.
“How does she do that?” asked Tony, confused. “How does she go from serious and business-like to bubbly and lighthearted?”
Ziva sighed, wondering what to say. “She’s Buffy right now,” she said, wincing slightly. “That bubbly, air headed, Valley girl cheerleader. She was Elizabeth before.”
“Is she really that compartmentalized?” asked McGee, frowning slightly.
“At the moment. She has had to be. As she relaxes, Buffy will bleed into Elizabeth until they are one person. Everything that Buffy is is suppressed when she is Elizabeth, but that will change. I have seen it before.”
Buffy, meanwhile, was bouncing lightly on her toes in the elevator, feeling slightly buzzed from her disturbed rest. The nightmare had visited her again, and she shuddered at the memory. She pushed it to the back of her mind as she exited the elevator, heading into Abby’s lab. She grinned at the music that was playing, a sound that would have been at home in the Bronze on Dingoes night.
Abby was bent over a work bench, carefully tightening a screw on the side of a boxy white machine. “Abby!” called Buffy, loud enough to be heard over the music.
“Lizzy!” cried Abby, using the nickname she had given the girl the night before, one she could not be dissuaded from.
“I thought someone might want to come home,” she told her, holding up Bert. “Thank you.”
Abby grinned, taking Bert and squeezing him hard before putting him back on top of the refrigerator from where he oversaw the workings of the lab. “Gibbs wants us back upstairs in fifteen minutes for lunch,” Buffy told her, and Abby nodded.
“Let me introduce you to my team,” Abby said with a grin, pulling Buffy over. She quickly introduced every piece of equipment and gave a brief description of their functions. “And these are my still life pictures,” Abby explained, pointing to the wall.
“Fluorescently coloured crime scene pictures?” asked Buffy, cocking her head to one side as she studied them. “Nice.”
Abby glanced at her watch. “We should head back upstairs.”
They arrived at the same time as the food, Buffy’s stomach once more attesting to her hunger. They dug into their kebabs, Buffy pulling her chair around to sit by Ziva’s desk. Ziva handed her her tablets, which she took without objection, washing them down with the apple juice her sister had ordered for her.
“After lunch, Elizabeth, we’ll start you learning your way around the computer system so you can find what we need when we need it,” Gibbs told her, and Elizabeth nodded, getting back down to business. She was grateful that none of them had asked her what she had been dreaming about, and as though that thought had transmitted itself, Tony spoke.
“That sounded like some nightmare earlier. What was it about?”
“I don’t remember,” she replied, the lie not missed by anyone.
Ziva caught Tony’s eye and shook her head once, sharply, and the man backed off.
They finished their lunch without much small talk, and McGee started getting Elizabeth up to speed on the computer system. At five, without an active case, Ziva decided it was time to leave.
“Elizabeth, it’s time to go,” she told her sister, who was sitting at McGee’s computer, the young man sitting behind her, grinning, as she bent the computer to her will, as he put it.
Elizabeth followed her sister back down to the garage and they made their way home, singing along to the radio. Once they got home, Elizabeth retreated to her room, where she lay on her bed, trying to sort through her feelings. Her grief filled her totally, but she also felt guilt for not feeling grief. She had forgotten, many times throughout the day, why she was in Washington, why she wasn’t back in Sunnydale, and each time it hit her again, the grief, guilt and shame had come hard and sharp.
Ziva found her, half an hour later, still staring at the ceiling. She sat beside her and stroked her head, smiling gently at her. “You okay?”
Buffy leant her head into her sister’s touch, her lips quirking slightly.
“The guilt is difficult,” Ziva told her, and Buffy flinched slightly. “You forget, we had the same teachers. I know how to read you. It’s normal, Elizabeth. You get distracted, and when you remember, you feel guilty for not respecting the person you lost.” Elizabeth snuggled against Ziva’s thigh, letting her sister comb her fingers through her hair. “What did you dream about?” asked Ziva, her tone gently curious as she rubbed the thick muscle at the base of her sister’s skull, frowning at the tightness of the muscles and began to apply more pressure.
“I keep dreaming about…about the Master and my death, and about mum’s car crash, about Lothos and Merrick, pretty much every bad thing that has happened to me ever has suddenly come back to haunt me. It seems like every time I close my eyes…” she shook her head.
Ziva sighed. “If you will not agree to wake me when you have a nightmare, I will sleep in here.”
Buffy sighed, rolling her eyes. “There’s no point both of us losing sleep,” she insisted.
“That is my call to make, not yours,” Ziva told her. “And if you don’t agree, I will be sleeping in here.”
Buffy sighed, rolling her eyes. “Fine, if that’s the way you want to play it, I’ll wake you up.”
“Good. Now, come and eat dinner,” Ziva told her, patting her on the shoulder as she pushed herself up off the bed.