A/N: Okay, so in this chapter we really start to see some ‘personality integration’.
Elizabeth/Elisheva (Hebraised form of Elizabeth, for anyone who was wondering) = her formal face. A lot like Ziva when she first came along: very little emotion, very professional, highly trained. Also, notably, the person she is most when she talks to her father.
Lizzy = Buffy + Elizabeth, or who my Buffy would probably have been if she wasn’t hiding her true identity.
“Shalom, Papa,” greeted Buffy, taking the phone from her sister’s outstretched hand and leaning back against the couch, the fingers of her free hand sinking into Jethro’s fur.
“Shalom, my darling. I have been doing some research into your difficulties, and I believe we have come up with a possible reason, but not a solution. How have you been with it all, anyway?”
“It seems to have settled down now, Papa,” she replied, frowning slightly as she thought. “My strength and reflexes are much better again, and my healing has increased. I would say I am almost at the same level I was when I was first chosen, although not where I was at just before I died. So, why do they think this is?”
“The other girls…we had them here. We could perform the procedure immediately, and the Slayer spirit would move on to find its next host. There was no real time for their bodies to adjust to it, so they simply snapped back to their…default settings, I suppose.” Buffy could hear the frown in his voice.
“But because we could not bring you home and release you from it immediately, we were forced to allow you to continue as you were until such arrangements could be made without attracting undue suspicion. In that time, your body adapted. I think you will find that the way you are is normal for you now. Do you still feel the urge to go out and hunt the vampires?”
“Not the way I used to,” she replied, frowning slightly. “I feel no urge to get outside when the sun sets, to go and actively hunt them out, but a few times…I have been nearby, and I have been unable to ignore them. The sense of them…it is like nails on a chalkboard, and I have to find it and make it stop.”
She could almost hear the gears in her father’s head turning as he thought about this. “Promise me that you will not place yourself in deliberate danger, Elisheva,” he ordered.
“I promise, Papa. I have no real desire to be drawn back into my former life, it belongs to someone else now. She is welcome to it. Just understand that I can't not slay if they are right there. I can’t.”
“I understand, but I will hold you to your promise not to seek them out. If you do not keep your word, I will bring you home and place you in training here.”
“Do not worry, Papa, I have no desire to do it any more than I absolutely have to.” She winced, remembering the last time she had been forced to slay. Jethro whined, pulling on the leash, and Buffy grinned, lengthening her stride into a run that her dog could easily keep pace with now that his wounds had mostly healed. It had been two weeks since the events that brought Jethro into her life, and while they had had their ups and downs, things were a little bit better now.
With Jethro there, she got a lot more sleep. Her nightmares still woke her on occasion, but she found it easier to get back to sleep, and often he managed to soothe her before she woke. She and Ziva still had the occasional sleepless night, but they were at great enough intervals that they were survivable.
Suddenly, something shuddered down her spine to settle in her gut, and she came to a screeching halt.
“Oh, come off it,” she muttered, scowling. “It’s daylight! I’m not allowed out on my own after sunset, it’s all I can do to get her to let me out now, and….argh…okay, okay, I’m going. At least I have the sun to help me out.” She turned off the path before stopping and fastening Jethro’s leash securely to a tree. “Drop, Jethro. Stay!” she ordered, and he lowered himself to his belly, whining slightly as she headed off without him but not making any move to follow.
She found the crypt and then took the time to create two rough stakes from a nearby tree, before pulling back and kicking the door open, sending the mid-afternoon light spilling through the doorway and into the vampire nest.
She moved through them, making quick work but sustaining enough damage that she knew Ziva was going to notice. She sighed as she headed back out into the sun, one hand pressed hard against the gash in her side to slow the bleeding.
She had made it home without anyone stopping her, and inside the house before Ziva had seen her coming. Her sister had caught her in the bathroom trying to clean the blood off, and given her a sound scolding even as she applied a proper dressing to the injury, which now appeared to be little more than a scratch.
It had happened one other time in the intervening week, this time when she was at NCIS, and she couldn’t bring herself to feel bad about it in anyway, because she had saved Ducky’s life when the ME had been about to perform an autopsy on a vampire. If nothing else, the expression on the talkative British man’s face when his corpse reanimated itself only to collapse in a pile of dust as Buffy stuck a piece of wood through its heart made it totally worthwhile.
“It is truly most unpleasant,” she assured her father, pulling her thoughts back to the present.
“Very well. I will trust you in this, but if Ziva feels that you have betrayed this trust…” he left the threat hanging. “Now, put your sister on the phone, little one,” he told her, a note of teasing in his voice as he made sure to end the call on a light note. She scowled playfully at the reference to her height, which was a greatly…less than that of any of her family members.
“Shalom, oh tall and mighty one,” she replied mockingly, passing the phone off to her sister.
Ziva bit her lip to keep from laughing audibly but when she heard her father’s snort she gave in, chuckling along with him.
Buffy slipped silently into the lab, watching Abby where she bent over one of her precious ‘babies’.
Jethro hung back at the door, obeying his mistress’s order to wait.
Buffy got right behind Abby and waited until it was clear that she wasn’t touching anything delicate before leaning in close and whispering, “Abby!”
The dark haired lab tech levitated, almost hitting her head on the bench she was kneeling beside.
“ELIZABETH DAVID!” she shrieked, launching herself to her feet and towards the diminutive brunette.
Buffy giggled, dodging her friend’s flailing arms. The tall brunette’s greater height longer reach made her difficult to evade, unless you had the advanced speed and reflexes of a pro-athlete or a semi-slayer.
“I win, I win, I win, safe, safe!” shrieked Buffy, grinning, as she made it through the door into the inner lab and into the designated ‘safe’ zone. Abby scowled, but didn’t dare to do anything while her friend was in the room. “Jethro, come,” the younger girl called, and the dog padded into the room, tail waving slightly but still slung low, not a danger to any of the equipment.
“Hey, boy,” cooed Abby, her entire being softening as she knelt and stroked him. “What are you doing here, huh?”
“He’s been declared fit, so I have to go with him to Pax River to learn the various commands he’s been trained with and everything, to be sure that I can keep him completely under control, and also so that he can be a bit more useful around here. He’s not meant for slacking around, he’s working dog and he’s got way too much energy to hang around in the backyard. And, of course,” she rolled her eyes, “this way they have an excuse for him to be with me all the time, which will make everyone oh so much happier.”
“Well, it’ll make me happier knowing that there’s someone standing between you and kidnapping, particularly someone loyal, loving and armed with hugely sharp teeth and an intelligent mind,” replied Abby, scratching behind Jethro’s ears before standing up and slinging an arm around Buffy’s shoulders. “So, do you need a lift? I assume that’s why you’re down here, because I know the others have gone out to the crime scene already.”
“Actually, Ziva told me to wait here with you and help you prepare for, as she termed it, “the deluge’. It’s a big scene.”
“Okay…could you help me move some of these boxes over there? They’re just waiting for transport down to the basement,” Abby directed.
Between the two of them, they had the boxes stacked onto the trolley and the benches cleared just in time for Ziva, Tony and McGee to walk through the lab door and cover them with new ones.
“How did it go?” asked Buffy, looking at the massive amount of evidence they were laying out.
“Three strippers found the party of ten Marines they were meant to be performing for dead in their hotel room, apparently poisoned. A lot of food, food wrappers, some vomit, and the general things: phones, wallets, clothes, etc…we came up from autopsy rather than leaving Ducky to lug it all up here. Apparently Palmer has the flu…and he’d better hope it’s the real deal because Ducky may just kill him if it isn’t.”
“This is going to take forever,” Abby sighed.
“Elizabeth, I will take you over to Pax River now, and will pick you up in a few hours. If I can not make it, I will call and let you know who is coming, understand?”
“Ziva, I’m not just going to get in the car of the first person who comes by saying that you sent them, unless it was someone from here,” Buffy scoffed.
“I know, I just…I worry,” her sister smiled sadly. “Lets go, we don’t have long, Gibbs needs me back here soon.”
“Jethro, heel,” ordered Buffy, and her dog came from where he had been resting his nose against a decidedly nervous McGee’s leg. “Good boy,” she cooed, to him, rubbing his head vigorously as they followed Ziva out of the lab.
“I should probably tell you not to encourage such behaviour,” Ziva commented, unable to keep a small grin from her lips.
“Well, yes, but if you did I’d have to knock you out and go looking for the real Ziva,” replied Buffy, grinning.
“This is true,” her sister agreed. “So, on Monday we will start looking at schools, yes?”
“On Monday we will start looking at schools, no,” Buffy replied. “There’s over two months of summer vacation left, Ziva. Why would we start looking now?”
“To find one you like, one with a quality syllabus, one with good security…” her sister’s voice trailed off significantly on that point. “Or, of course, you could go and study in one of the delightful schools in Tel Aviv, and be under virtual house arrest with our father…”
“Okay, okay, we start looking at schools on Monday, yes,” Buffy replied, rolling her eyes at her sister’s dramatics. “But seriously, we’re in Washington DC, this place is crawling with dignitaries, do you honestly not think there are a dozen high schools which cater for the children of ambassadors, politicians and other upper crust public servants, any of which would fill both of your requirements?”
“But I want one that fulfils yours,” Ziva replied firmly.
“As long as it doesn’t have an evil troll for a principle I think it will,” replied Buffy, wrinkling her nose in remembrance.
“We will see. There are plenty to look at, and I want to be sure you are truly happy and comfortable.”
Buffy ducked her head, eyes down as she reigned in her reaction. Knowing that Ziva cared about things like that was when it really hit her how different her life was now. She didn’t have to hide anymore, at least not completely, and so she could attend a school of her choosing, that taught the things she wanted to learn. But thoughts of how things were different always brought her back to the reason why they were different.
Ziva draped an arm around Buffy’s shoulders, reading her sister’s emotions in her body language.
They continued to the car in silence, Jethro pressed hard against his mistress’s leg, whining gently until she brightened, dropping a hand to rub his ears and head.
They reached the garage just as Tony and Gibbs caught up with them. “Change of plans, Ziva,” Gibbs ordered. “Need you to go with Tony, I’ll take Lizzy to Pax River.” The whole team had taken to adopted Abby’s pet name for her, except when she was in trouble or they were being ‘official’, and she found that she liked the level of familiarity it provided.
“It’s fine,” Buffy waved her sister off before following her boss to his car. “Gibbs, can I drive?” she asked.
“Not this time, princess,” he replied, ruffling her hair. “No time to wait.”
“Fine,” she pouted at him.
“So, how’s your ASL going?” asked Gibbs.
“Pretty well, I think,” she replied. “I’ve memorized all of the signs you and Abby gave me last week, at least.”
“Very good. I’ll get some more for you to start practicing, then.”
The rest of their trip passed quickly, and Buffy soon found herself in front of the dog yards, nervously facing the Lieutenant who would be instructing her in working with Jethro.
“So,” the man said, eyeing the pair somewhat dubiously. “This is a working collar.” He held up a simple, plain black leather collar with built in leash. At the sight of it, Jethro whined softly, pointing his nose towards it with longing plain in his eyes. “When Butch is wearing this, he will only respond to his handler, that is, you. He is, as I’m sure you know, a trained drug dog, but he can and will track anything you give him a scent from. So, for today, we’re just going to put him through his basic paces, and you’ll practice those together, ONLY while he is in the collar, through the week and come back next week to learn the higher level training. Understood?”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Buffy replied, standing tall.
“You considering the service once you’re old enough?” enquired the man as he turned to lead her into the facility.