Willow shivered. She’d been waiting in the basement with Ari for close to an hour.
She had a feeling he’d had Gibbs’ house in mind for staging his death all along and just not told her until the other night. It was very neat. NCIS would do the investigation, and with Ziva and Ari’s Mossad connections, they would probably not look too hard at what had happened. It would be in their interest to turn the body over to Mossad quickly and quietly bury the incident. Just one more facet of Ari’s plan.
He was going to be very useful to the Council- and hopefully a lot happier in a job that didn’t involve killing people.
They had no idea how long it would take Gibbs to come back. Ari, of course, looked the picture of calm lounging against the workbench, despite the fact that they were waiting here to fake his death- and if anything went wrong, he might well end up dead for real. Willow, huddled back against the stairs in the corner where Gibbs would be unlikely to spot her even without the spell she would be casting as soon as she heard the door open, was a bundle of jitters. She had no idea how Ari could stay so relaxed.
Ari planned to make sure Gibbs’ full attention would be on him the whole time. All Willow had to do was be ready to make the switch, as soon as Ari raised the gun he was cradling- Gibbs’ own sniper rifle. It seemed like forever before the door opened and closed. She heard the footsteps upstairs.
Whispering an incantation, Willow moved closer to Ari. He shook his head slightly and shooed her with his hand. He didn’t want her too close. Just in case. She shrank back, worried she would be the one to mess everything up at the last minute.
Then Gibbs opened the basement door, and it was too late to change anything now. They were all committed.
“Looking for this, Jethro?”
Ari looked almost melancholy, now that it was time. He was sure Gibbs had a second weapon concealed somewhere in the basement, and meant to give him every opportunity to get it. He’d told her that he would monologue like a Bond villain if necessary.
“I want you to know, I wish I hadn’t had to shoot Caitlin.”
That part was true, Willow suspected. She couldn’t imagine Agent Todd was very happy about the unexpected turn her life had taken. Hopefully the plan she and Buffy had worked out for how to introduce her to the Council was going well.
“Why did you?”
“To cause you pain.”
Willow didn’t flinch. Ari had warned her he would lie at this point. Say whatever he thought was needed so that Ziva would not interfere. So that she would not feel guilty afterwards, nor would Gibbs. He didn’t want either of them doubting themselves after the fact.
“I piss you off that much?”
“Not you. My father. You have the misfortune of reminding me of the bastard.”
Another lie. Ari thought much more highly of Gibbs than he did of Eli. Willow suspected if she asked, he’d say Gibbs was the better man and better father. He had told her of Gibbs’ tragedy since the last time she was in this house- and Gibbs’ reaction.
“Ah, he didn’t marry your mother.”
“That’s what makes me a bastard, not him. From the moment of my birth, he groomed me to be one thing: his mole in Hamas. Sent me to Edinburgh to become a doctor so I could work in the Gaza camps alongside my mother. When he had her killed, I had no trouble joining the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam.”
“You don’t really believe your father had your mother killed.”
Gibbs sounded genuinely taken aback, but that actually had more than a grain of truth to it. Ari had serious doubts about his father’s role in his mother’s death. It was part of why his relationship with Eli was so fraught. Part of why they were all standing in this basement.
“It was a retaliatory Israeli strike, on a day I was in Tel Aviv, visiting him. After decades of planning, he had his mole in Hamas. He never knew how much I hated him. I wish I could see his face, when he sees he created not a mole, but a monster. Eager to strike at the heart of Mossad and Israel.”
Willow knew the first part of that was true. The second part wasn’t, though. Ari might have soured on Mossad, but he still knew who his enemies were. If they had let him, Ari would have killed every single one of the people who sent young men and women out to blow themselves and their Israeli counterparts up. He had seen what was left of Tali and her friends after the bombing at the disco- he’d gone with Aunt Rivka to the morgue when they hadn’t found her in the hospitals. The one time they had spoken about it, he had told her he’d never forget it as long as he lived. It was one of the few times Willow had seen hate on her cousin’s face.
“Yeah, I almost feel sorry for you.”
“And I for you,” Ari replied. “When Ziva told me you were placing flowers on the roof where Caitlin died, I couldn’t believe it. Such a romantic touch. Almost too good to pass up- almost.”
“Why did you?” Gibbs asked.
Maybe this once Ziva would follow her heart instead of her duty. Maybe she’d jump in and stop this. They could explain everything to Ziva and Gibbs- Gibbs would help them if he was truly the man Ari thought he was.
“I need you to commit suicide with your own rifle. You never did give me enough credit in our little game. I knew it was a trap before Ziva told me you asked her to cover you. You’d never trust Ziva. And you need to kill me. Taste the sweetness of revenge.”
Gibbs had shifted position as he walked, and Willow was starting to worry. Surely he should have pulled out his concealed weapon by now. He wasn’t really going to let Ari shoot him.
“I’ve killed enough men in my life, Ari. It’s going to be just as sweet watching you die.”
There was absolute certainty in Gibbs’ voice. Willow saw the faint trace of confusion in her cousin’s eyes. He’d expected to be facing a gun by now.
That was when she understood. It wasn’t Gibbs who would take the shot. She prayed fervently that Ziva, the surest shot she’d ever known, wouldn’t falter this time. Emotion wouldn’t make her hand shake. Because if Willow made the switch and Ziva’s shot missed…
Ari raised the rifle again. She was sure she was the only one who saw the pain in his eyes. He understood, too.
“Sorry to spoil your-“
Willow made the switch just as she’d been instructed. She let Ari’s voice echo, even though he was already safe in Cleveland. It was cut off by Ziva’s shot hitting the forehead of what she couldn’t know was already a corpse.
Ziva’s footsteps were unnaturally loud as she walked down the stairs to confirm the kill. She stood over what she believed to be her brother’s body, her face closed. Only those who knew her would see the turmoil just below the surface.
“His father is deputy director of Mossad?” Gibbs asked.
“Yes,” Ziva said, a hitch in her voice.
It was the closest Willow had ever heard her to tears. But then, she hadn’t been there for Tali’s funeral. It had been such a bad time, losing Buffy and Tali one right after the other. Willow couldn’t imagine Ziva hadn’t cried at the funeral. Tali was the baby of the family, the youngest of them all- and the only one who might have grown up to have a normal life. But that had been taken from her. From all of them.
Willow wanted nothing more than to hug Ziva and beg for absolution.
“Not David…” Gibbs said, not quite a question, as if it was only just dawning on him the answer wasn’t going to be no.
Willow was startled by that. He hadn’t known? Ziva hadn’t told him? Not even to save Ari’s life?
“Yes,” Ziva answered quietly, her eyes on the blood pooling on the floor under the dead man’s head. “He’s my half brother.”
Not hugging her devastated cousin as she mourned, just teleporting herself quietly to Cleveland instead, was one of the hardest things Willow had ever done.Someday
, she promised herself. Someday.