Bring Up Your Dead
Buffy belongs to Joss. NCIS belongs to Bellisario. I'm playing with other people's toys.
It should have been a routine case. They were running through footage sent over from Dulles, confirming the date their suspect had arrived in country. It was mind numbing, running through so much footage, but once they had that confirmation, they’d have the guy dead to rights- his alibi wouldn’t hold up if he’d flown into DC on Monday, instead of Tuesday like he claimed.
Routine. Until Tony spotted something that shouldn’t have been there.
“McGee! Freeze the tape- back it up ten seconds!”
“You spotted him?” McGee asked in relief. He really, really wanted to get out on time tonight.
“No, I spotted someone else. Enlarge the picture!”
As the playback started a second time, everyone’s attention was on the screen. So it wasn’t just Tony who saw it. He didn’t have to tell McGee to pause it. McGee did it all on his own.
“It can’t be!”
“McGee, run facial recognition.”
“There are seven billion people on the planet. It is possible that there is a doppelganger out there. It cannot be him.”
That was Ziva, more stunned than any of them, and with good reason.
McGee shook his head.
“Facial recognition and biometrics match. Boss, it’s definitely Ari Haswari. Back from the dead.”
“If that is Ari,” Ziva began, before stopping herself short. “No, it is not possible. He is dead. I saw his body. I accompanied it back to Israel- I saw him buried!”
“On it, boss. Requesting passenger information from Homeland Security now.”
No one looked at Gibbs, but then, they didn’t have to. They knew what expression he’d have on his face at the idea of Ari Haswari not being dead.
“Um, Boss?” McGee spoke up tentatively. “You’re going to want to see this. I followed our possible Ari through the airport on security footage…”
“And? Spit it out, McGee!” Gibbs barked.
“He was met outside of customs.”
“By who?” Gibbs demanded.
There was utter silence as McGee’s fingers danced on his keyboard, bringing the image up on the main screen. There was a click as Tony set his phone back down to gape at the image. Then the silence continued, as it sank in that Ari wasn’t the only one back from the dead.
A little girl had run to meet him as soon as he was outside the doors from the international arrivals hall, his daughter if his affectionate welcome was anything to judge by. The woman the little girl had been waiting with was several years older than they’d last seen her, but still clearly Caitlin Todd.
“McGee,” Gibbs said hoarsely, “identify both of them. Not by who we know they are, but by whatever identity Ari’s using now.”
For a few minutes, all they heard was the sound of McGee’s fingers pounding furiously on the keyboard as he did as he was told. A phone rang, but everyone ignored it. Unless it was Director Vance with a priority order, it could wait. The others continued to gape at the screen, which Tony had put on a loop from the time Ari cleared customs until he walked out the door with Kate.
“It’s so weird,” Tony declared numbly. “And it doesn’t stop being weird. You’d think it would, right?”
“DiNozzo-“ Gibbs began.
“What’s going on?” demanded a new voice. “I’ve been calling and calling and- oh my god.”
Abby trailed off abruptly, coming to a complete stop.
“That’s Kate,” she said slowly in the suppressed tone that indicated some sort of imminent explosion. “That’s definitely Kate.”
“Right there with you, Abbs,” Tony said. “And only ahead of you on the ‘holy shit’ curve by about three minutes.”
“Ok, I got something,” McGee announced. Three heads swiveled away from the screen in unison.
“Ari was traveling under the name Adrian Headley. Headley is a British national, employed by Guardian LLC. Guardian’s headquarters are in London, and it looks like Ari goes back and forth fairly often, but not usually through DC. Headley’s wife is also a British national, Catherine Maitland-Ward. There’s no current US residence listed for either.”
“What did they put on their entry forms for US address?” Gibbs barked.
“A Cleveland address- owned by Guardian LLC,” McGee replied. “Get this, boss- Maitland-Ward appears to have family ties to Guardian. Her father is listed on its board of directors.”
“What does Guardian LLC do?” Tony asked. “Because is it just me, or do they seem to pop up a lot in this background?”
Ziva tuned out as the others began to delve deeper into her brother’s new identity, and that of his wife. Caitlin Todd. He had married the woman he was supposed to have killed. Both of them were alive. And suddenly things that had made no sense before fell into place.
She did not know what Guardian did, but the name was what had made her suddenly remember, all these years later, the thing that had bothered her so much after the funeral.
Ari had spoken to Willow. Twice. From different burn phones, one the week before he died, one the day before. It had not been easy to track down all her brother’s phones, but she had made the effort. There had also been one call that was unaccounted for- burn phone to burn phone. She had not been able to discover who the other burn phone had belonged to. She had not reported any of it to her father. She had not wanted to pull her cousin into the tragedy.
Nor had she confessed to Willow when they met for lunch one afternoon, not long after Ziva had started her liason position. They had sat in a small café in Alexandria, enjoying the fine fall weather. They had tried not to talk about the ghost sitting with them. Willow had known Ari was dead, but Ziva could not bring herself to tell her how. Her cousin had already not known what to say, other than to assure her that Ari would not want her to be unhappy.“After his mother died, you and Tali were his world, Ziva”, Willow said. “He would do anything for you.”
“Yes,” she replied bitterly. “Anything but live. He promised me we would meet in Paris after that mission. He never broke a promise before, never. Why now?”
“Are you sure he did? You went to Paris, didn’t you? I’m sure wherever he was, he saw you. Just cause you couldn’t see him doesn’t mean he wasn’t there.”
Willow had known. She was sure. Why else the assurance Ari hadn’t broken his promise? In fact…
She started typing, nearly as fast as McGee for once. Sure enough, there it was, in black and white. The day she had first spoken to Ari, Willow had flown to Washington, to Reagan. She’d been accompanied by both Summers sisters. The three of them had stayed only for the day. Just long enough that Willow could have met Ari.
How had she missed this before? It was textbook- a conversation too sensitive to be held over the telephone.
Ziva suddenly sat down as it became clear to her. Willow hadn’t just known about Ari’s death. She had been in on it. That was the only way Ziva could think that two people who were supposed to be dead- shot in the head, autopsied by Ducky, bodies seen by trained NCIS agents and Mossad officers who had known the deceased well- were still alive and well and walking around. They had never been dead in the first place.
She looked up to find the others looking at her.
“I think I need to get some air,” she said, aware even as she said it that it was a lame excuse. But the last thing in the world she would do was call her cousin the witch from an NCIS telephone to demand to speak to her dead brother.