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Before Twilight

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Summary: Willow's cousin contacts her out of the blue with an unusual request.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
NCIS > Willow-CenteredgrundyFR131016,82248834,75512 Aug 1214 Aug 13No

Killing Her Softly

Willow bit her lip nervously. She’d had a brief conversation with Ari earlier, another burn phone. Besides confirming the location in Norfolk and the time he needed her to be in position, he had also warned her that Ziva was definitely in country. He’d reiterated that although he knew his plan would hurt her, under no circumstance was she to be told the truth of what was about to happen. She was safer not knowing.

While Willow had protested the warning, she could admit to herself that it was probably just as well Ari had said it. It was very tempting to appeal to Ziva to find some saner way to deal with this. Not for the first time, Willow regretted the breach between Ari and her uncle Eli. When they were younger, Ari had trusted his father completely. But those days were gone.

She understood Ari’s reasons, and she would have loved to be able to refute his suspicions about his father. But she couldn’t. Deep down, she knew that her uncle, despite loving his children dearly, would not let his emotions or family ties affect his professional decisions. He lived and breathed Mossad, and had for a long time.

His dedication to his job was why Aunt Rivka had left him. She’d wanted to keep Ziva and Tali safe. Willow hadn’t understood what she meant by that until later. She was fairly sure Ziva still didn’t.

Rivka had seen no good way to keep Ari safe- he might be her husband’s son, but he was another woman’s child. She would have, if she could. But in the end, Rivka hadn’t even been able to protect her own children. A bomber had taken Tali, and Ziva had followed her father and the big brother she adored to Mossad.

Things would be so much simpler if Ari could still trust his father, and tell him. She knew Uncle Eli could have come up with a better exit plan than this. Maybe she didn’t know him as well as she thought she did, but she believed that even for the good of Israel, Eli would not risk both his surviving children on an op truly beyond salvaging. But it was too late for regrets now.

They were about to kill Agent Caitlin Todd in front of her co-workers. In a few hours, as far as her boss and co-workers were concerned, she would be dead. The only ones who would know differently were Willow, Ari, Buffy, Dawn, and Xander. They’d managed to clear the Cleveland house for a few days to buy themselves some time to work with Agent Todd on creating her new identity. And hopefully convincing her not to kill Ari for real…

Ok, Wills, we’re ready at this end, Buffy’s though echoed in her head. Telepathy worked so much better than the earpieces the government agents used or the two way radios Ari told her ‘his’ people would have. It's just us in the house, and anyone due back later this week has been warned to expect company.

Good, Willow replied. I still wish we could have had Ziva in the know. She uses guns, and I’m pretty sure everyone else at this shindig does too.

Don’t get nervous now, Wills, Buffy thought sternly. It’s set up so that no one sees you. You’ve cast enough spells on that place that no normal humans should want to walk in anyway. You stay put until you see the signal, then you grab Agent Todd, and she takes the Magic Express back to Cleveland while you stick around for Ari’s big death scene. Simple!

It does sound simple when you put it like that, Willow admitted.

To be honest, as Scooby plans went, it was one of the better ones. That was probably due to Ari- he was used to planning a lot more carefully than Buffy or any of the Scoobies ever had, even when he was planning on the fly. Giles had told Willow that Ari could be quite useful to the Council, assuming he didn’t already have something else in mind for his post-Mossad career. Willow suspected he didn’t- he’d asked them to give Agent Todd a job, after all. And he had said he was ‘fond’ of her, which in Ari-speak was practically a declaration of love.

Willow had spent several days preparing the corpses that would be standing in for her cousin and Caitlin Todd combining magic, modern technology, and little bit of pre-emptive hacking to modify a few records in highly specific ways that wouldn’t show up unless someone looked very carefully. Given the circumstances, it was unlikely anyone would look that carefully. Not that Willow was willing to trust to that. She’d covered her tracks well.

She couldn’t vouch for Agent Todd’s corpse, but Ari’s was literally a dead ringer. Even Uncle Eli wouldn’t know the difference at this point. Dawn had walked in the room, taken one look, and proclaimed it the creepiest thing she’d seen all year.

The clothes were actually one of the most worrisome parts- Ari, obviously, could control what he would be wearing when the time came, so he had simply handed Willow a bag with a duplicate set of clothing. (Including, much to her amusement, underwear. How he thought anyone else who would see his ‘corpse’ would know what color his underpants really were, Willow had no idea.)

Agent Todd’s case was trickier. For one thing, there might actually be someone at NCIS who would know if they got her underwear wrong, although Ari seemed certain there wasn’t. Ari, however, had been a step ahead on solving that one. Willow had received an email that morning of Caitlin Todd on her way to work, and between her internet skills and the combined shopping acumen of the Summers sisters, they had gotten everything they needed to dress Fake Caitlin within two hours, right down to the watch on her wrist. A second photo had been emailed just half an hour ago, confirming exactly what Agent Todd was wearing to her death.

When they’d first started planning, Willow had thought about trying to match the bulletproof vest Agent Todd would be wearing, but finally decided that given the spellwork she’d have to do to ensure that the ringer’s vest would match any scrapes, scuffs, or marks Agent Todd’s vest picked up in her final fight, it would be easier to just transfer the vest to the corpse when she switched the real Agent Todd out. She’d practiced the spell several times yesterday using Dawn as a guinea pig, until she was confident she could do it as quickly as she’d need it today.

Buffy was right. As carefully as they’d prepared for this, there should be nothing to worry about. Willow watched patiently.

As Ari had expected, when the NCIS team arrived, they pulled up in a hurry and shot out of their car to flush out Ari’s supposed support team. His comments about al Qaeda’s people being ‘dedicated to their cause, but not very bright’ seemed right on the mark. As minions went, they weren’t the best. But she made sure to keep to the shadows anyway. Besides the observers Ari feared, there could also be cameras or satellites- not something she was used to worrying about. Actually, now that she thought about it…

A murmured spell, and cameras and satellites became less worrisome- for a little while, anyway.

Ok, party’s getting interesting over here, she warned Buffy. They should be up on the roof any minute.

Right, I’m giving Dawn and Xander the heads up, Buffy replied. It’ll be interesting to finally meet your cousin’s crush.

It took only seconds before three agents burst onto the warehouse roof from different access points, Agent Todd, Agent DiNozzo, and Agent Gibbs if Willow had read the background material correctly.

Uh-oh!

What’s wrong, Will?? Buffy demanded.

There was another guy on the roof, Willow thought frantically. Agent Todd jumped in front of Gibbs and took the shot meant for him! What if she’s really dead? I was waiting for Ari’s signal and wasn’t ready yet!

She’s wearing her vest, right? Buffy replied calmly. I wore one that time with Riley’s group. It stops the bullet, but it’s a little like taking a punch from a vamp. I’m guessing she’d be a little stunned, but she’ll still be breathing. I think your cousin would have mentioned if he had his flunkies armed with heavy duty artillery that would go through a vest.

Willow frowned. It was true, Ari would definitely have mentioned that. He’d gone over every detail of what he expected to happen. Thanks to Ari flat out telling Gibbs he was supposed to kill him, Todd and Gibbs at least would be wearing vests, and DiNozzo and McGee probably were too. Agent Todd getting shot, even with a vest, had never come up. But Ari had mentioned that he doubted the NCIS people would be in serious danger from his men as long as they stuck to their training.

Oh, right, I’d forgotten about the vests. Ok, they’re talking to her. She’s alright. They’re helping her up- there’s the signal, Buffy! NOW!

Willow switched Agent Todd for the prepared corpse that was a dead ringer for her- and between Ari’s meticulous shot and Willow’s spells, even the people who worked with her would be convinced they’d just seen her die. The autopsy would show that the body was a tissue, blood, and DNA match to Caitlin Todd. Even the fingerprints had been altered to match the file Ari had handed her. Willow was nothing if not thorough.

Willow felt a little guilty, but she told herself firmly she was saving Agent Todd, not killing her, no matter what hurt it might inflict on those around her. Ari had told her over and over to remember that this was a minor battle in a long-running war. The emotional damage to Todd’s co-workers was another casualty of war as far as he was concerned.

She walked quietly down the stairs to wait for her cousin. Their getaway car was parked on the warehouse floor, so she wouldn’t be visible to anyone outside at all. Ari would meet her and they would drive back to DC together to await the fallout and choose a good moment to stage his death. Agent Todd was already safely in the Council house in Cleveland, where hopefully Buffy, Dawn, and Xander would be able to explain things to Caitlin Todd’s satisfaction- and deal with her entirely justified anger.
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