Having slipped fully into ‘Buffy’, she finished her meal and headed upstairs, where she reluctantly took a shower and put her hair up. She thought for a moment, then hung her Star on a longer chain so that it hung between her breasts. She pulled out a black shirt and pants, and Angel’s leather jacket over the top.
Stuffing her feet into a scuffed up pair of old runners, she came back downstairs, almost running into Tony as he came out of the lounge.
“Hi,” he said, surprised.
“Sorry about that,” she said, dodging around him, expression heavy.
Tony blinked, surprised. He had heard her speak English only briefly the night before, but the accent had been completely different; then she had had a softer version of Ziva’s own accent, now she sounded like a total Valley girl.
“Your friends were here earlier,” he said quickly as she flopped onto the couch and started doing up her shoelaces.
“Willow and Xander were here? When?” she asked, eyes gaining a little excitement under the clearly present grief.
“Ummm…about five hours ago, I think,” he replied, and Buffy nodded.
She finished tying her shoes then bounced up, forcing a smile, and grabbed the cordless phone off the end table.
She dialed the number from memory and waited. “Willow, hi…I’m doing okay…Yeah, they’re fine, Dad’s on an overseas trip, he’ll be here as soon as he can, but he didn’t want me left alone until then…It’s fine, Willow, I’m sorry I missed you…You’re doing that why?” her voice suddenly took on a note of slightly incredulous panic.
“No, Willow, really, that isn’t necessary, they’re good people, you and Xander don’t need to worry about them, really. They work with my dad.” She rolled her eyes to the ceiling as though in supplication. “Xander is just being ridiculous, Willow, please, I don’t need this kind of trouble right now, please.” She begged, desperate, then sighed slightly in relief. “Thank you, Willow. Tell Xand to keep his hair on, everything’s fine, he doesn’t need to protect me. I’ll see you later…Yeah, tell Xander I’ll see you guys soon.” She hung up the phone and sighed deeply.
“Ziva, we might be with the having of a problem,” she called, and Tony blinked.
“Was that even English?” he asked, confused.
Buffy rolled her eyes at him as Ziva entered the room. “What was that?” asked her older sister.
“I said, we might have a problem. Apparently you two freaked out my friends, Xander specifically, more than you realized, and he convinced Willow that you might not be with being who you claim to be and that she should run a back ground check.” Seeing the two agent’s skeptical looks, she shook her head, eyes wide. “You don’t get it. Willow is like, super good with the computer stuff; she’s an excellent hacker. If she went looking for information…I guarantee you she’d find something you didn’t want her to know.”
“What have you done about this?” asked Ziva, taking Elizabeth’s information at face value.
“Reassured her that you guys are exactly what you look like. She’ll pass that on to Xander, which should keep them from doing anything for long enough for you guys to set up decent identities where she would look for them.”
Ziva nodded, turning away, and pulled out a cell phone. She dialed and almost immediately began speaking rapid Hebrew.
“What’s she saying?” asked Tony.
“I don’t speak Hebrew, or Arabic, or fluent French,” the girl replied unhelpfully.
“Well, then, can Elizabeth tell me what her sister is doing?”
Buffy rolled her eyes, but decided to explain. “She’s organizing for a shell company to be set up, with you, Hank and herself as employees, along with a half a dozen others, and a full back story to be created. Should be good enough for a cursory sweep, even a slightly more indepth look.” She shrugged. “Should cover for anything Willow might be able to pull out of her hat.”
“Why can’t we just do that through NCIS?” asked Tony, confused.
“How would I be knowing that?” asked Buffy, frowning.
Tony gave her a hard look, which she returned with a typical dumb blond expression.
Ziva finished her phone conversation and turned to find her sister facing off with Tony, an innocently stupid expression on her features. A memory struck her hard, one that she had been forcing herself to ignore since she first read her father’s letter. Images of a young girl, playing games, training, eyes shining with excitement as she learnt new things. Images of the same girl, older, as she twirled, showing off the green and blue dress her big sister had brought her from America. She heard her own scream echo in her ears as she tried to reach her, shield her from the suicide bomber that took her life. “Tali,” she whispered, voice so soft as to be almost non-existent.
Unfortunately for her, in the silent atmosphere of the room, she was extremely audible.
Tony stiffened, remembering what she had told him as they stood outside that hotel after she had confronted him about tailing her.
“Tali?” asked Buffy softly, eyes widening.
“Ummm…” said Ziva slowly, not wanting to add to her littlest sister’s burden of grief, but the expression on Elizabeth’s face said she wasn’t going to let this go. “We had another sister, and a brother,” she told her, slowly. “Tali was my full sister. She was sixteen when she was killed by a suicide bomber. Ari…is a long, complicated story that we do not have time for right now.” She had suddenly been struck by another idea that she wished she hadn’t thought of; Ari believed that their father, when he no longer had any use for his mother, had had her killed. She buried that thought deep, where no part of it could possibly show on her face.
“Red hair? Bright green eyes, always tall for her age?” asked Buffy, chewing on her lower lip.
“Yes,” Ziva replied slowly.
“I knew her. I didn’t know she was…” Her voice broke, but she kept talking. “She taught me hopscotch and jump rope when I was four years old living in Tel Aviv. We spent at least a month together every year after that. She taught me monopoly at age five, and chess and scrabble at age six. When I was seven, she never came; no one would tell me what happened, but it was fairly obvious.”
Ziva nodded, eyes sad. It sounded like something her father would have done, allowing his two youngest daughters to know each other without knowing that they were sisters.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked, eyeing her sister up and down.
“As I’ll ever be,” Buffy replied, shrugging one shoulder slightly. The three of them headed for the car parked in the driveway.
“I’ll drive,” Ziva and Tony said together.
“Do you drive like me?” Buffy asked Ziva, who smirked slightly.
“What is up with that?” asked Tony, even as he hijacked the keys as they climbed into the car.
“Family secret,” Ziva replied, exchanging a glance with Buffy, who grinned broadly. Ziva felt her heart warm slightly at the sight of the smile on her sister’s face, a sight she never expected to see again.
Elsewhere in Sunnydale
“I can’t answer that question, Rupert,” the cultured, annoying voice of Quentin Travers came out of Giles’ speakerphone.
“I want to know who Buffy Summers really is,” shouted Giles, fury ringing in his tone.
“And I can’t tell you,” replied Travers. “You say she died?”
“Drowned. Brought back using CPR,” Giles explained.
“Interesting. I am unable to tell you what you wish to know, Giles. A new Slayer has been activated; she and her Watcher will be arriving there within the week.” The call disconnected, and Giles swore angrily before hitting the speaker button violently.
Director Eli David picked up the line, a scowl firmly in place. “Quentin,” he said coldly.
“What is happening?”
“Since I contacted you that a new Slayer had been called, Mrs. Summers has been killed in a car accident. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Eli?”
“Of course not, old friend. How could you insinuate such a thing?”
“Because I know you, OLD FRIEND, all too well. I just got off the phone with Elizabeth’s Watcher. He was demanding answers, he knows that Elizabeth isn’t who she’s been claiming to be. He told me that she drowned, and was resuscitated using CPR, which would explain how a new Slayer came to be called. You would know better than I how this will work for her now.”
“You know our arrangement. The Watcher is to be told nothing; once Elisheva is out of Sunnydale and away from your organization, you will receive the other two volumes, as promised. Shalom.” He hung up before Travers could say anything else.
Buffy stood beside the gurney, looking down at her mother’s sheet covered body. She was fighting with herself to lift the sheet, to see that her mother was truly gone. She both wanted and didn’t want the finality of that knowledge, to be able to hold onto her denial and to start working on acceptance.
Tony had chased away the morgue attendant to give Elizabeth and Ziva some privacy, and now they stood facing each other over the gurney.
Slowly, Buffy reached out and lifted away the sheet, folding it down onto her mother’s chest. She raised one hand to her mouth, tears flooding her eyes, then leant down and pressed a kiss to the cold forehead, caressing the familiar cheek.
“Bye, mom. I love you,” she whispered, pulling the sheet back up to cover Joyce’s face.
“She was a very beautiful woman,” Ziva commented, watching her sister carefully.
“Yeah, in more ways than one,” Buffy replied, nodding, eyes watering. “I’m done here.”
Ziva wrapped an arm around her sister’s waist, and Buffy’s head dropped sideways onto Ziva’s shoulder as they made their way out the door.